CWD regulations in Texas

Due to the regular amending of regulations in Texas, it is recommended that before hunting you check these CWD regulations, as well as those of any other states or provinces in which you will be hunting or traveling through while transporting cervid carcasses. The contact information for Texas can be seen below:

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Testing Laboratories in Texas

Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory
Texas A & M University 1 Sippel Rd. College Station, TX 77843
979-845-3414 or 888-646-5623

Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory
Texas A & M University 6610 Amarillo Blvd West Amarillo, TX 79106

Locations Where CWD Was Found

Counties (Accurate as of 3/2016)

1. El Paso 2. Hudspeth 3. Hartley 

Most Recent CWD News

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  • AUSTIN – Two new cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Texas captive deer, including the first confirmed from a live test tonsillar biopsy sample, have been validated. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) are conducting an epidemiological investigation

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  • AUSTIN – A free-ranging mule deer buck, harvested in Hartley County, has been confirmed positive for CWD. State officials received confirmation today from the National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa.

    Hartley County is located in the Texas Panhandle immediately to the south of Dalhart

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  • AUSTIN – A 3 1/2-year-old captive raised white-tailed buck harvested in early January by a hunter from a release site on a ranch in Medina and Uvalde counties has been confirmed positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD). The deer’s origin has been identified as an onsite

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  • SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- A fourth case of chronic wasting disease has been confirmed in deer in South Texas.

    The San Antonio Express-News reported Friday that the latest infected deer was raised in Medina County at the same ranch as the other three animals. That's prompted

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  • AUSTIN – A two-year-old white-tailed deer in a Medina County deer breeding facility has been confirmed positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). This is the first case of CWD detected in captive white-tailed deer in Texas. CWD was first detected in Texas in 2012 in free-ranging

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  • AUSTIN – Nearly 300 tissue samples were collected from hunter harvested deer and elk from the Trans Pecos ecoregion during the 2013-14 season to test for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). Over the last two hunting seasons upwards of 600 deer and elk have been tested for

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Category Archives: Texas

Chronic Wasting Disease Detected in Far West Texas

AUSTIN — Samples from two mule deer recently taken in far West Texas have been confirmed positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). These are the first cases of CWD detected in Texas deer. Wildlife officials believe the event is currently isolated in a remote part of the state near the New Mexico border.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) implemented regionally-focused deer sample collection efforts after the disease was detected in the Hueco Mountains of New Mexico during the 2011-12 hunting season. With the assistance of cooperating landowners, TPWD, TAHC, and USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services biologists and veterinarians collected samples from 31 mule deer as part of a strategic CWD surveillance plan designed to determine the geographic extent of New Mexico’s findings. Both infected deer were taken from the Hueco Mountains of northern El Paso and Hudspeth counties.

CWD is a member of the group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Other diseases in this group include scrapie in sheep, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease) in cattle, and Cruetzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. CWD among cervids is a progressive, fatal disease that commonly results in altered behavior as a result of microscopic changes made to the brain of affected animals. An animal may carry the disease for years without outward indication, but in the latter stages, signs may include listlessness, lowering of the head, weight loss, repetitive walking in set patterns, and a lack of responsiveness. CWD is not known to affect humans.

Tissue samples were initially tested by the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in College Station, with confirmation by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

“Now that we have detected CWD in Texas, our primary objective is to contain this disease,” said Carter Smith, TPWD Executive Director. “Working collaboratively with experts in the field we have developed protocols to address CWD and implementation is already under way.”

There is no vaccine or cure for CWD, but steps have been taken to minimize the risk of the disease spreading from beyond the area where it currently exists. For example, human-induced movements of wild or captive deer, elk, or other susceptible species will be restricted and mandatory hunter check stations will be established.

“This is obviously an unfortunate and rather significant development,” said TPW Commission Chairman, T. Dan Friedkin. “We take the presence of this disease very seriously and have a plan of action to deal with it. The Department will do whatever is prudent and reasonable to protect the state’s deer resources and our hunting heritage.”

Although wildlife officials cannot say how long the disease has been present in Texas or if it occurs in other areas of the state, they have had an active CWD surveillance program for more than a decade.

“We have tested more than 26,500 wild deer in Texas since 2002, and the captive-deer industry has submitted more than 7,400 CWD test results as well,” said Mitch Lockwood, Big Game Program Director with TPWD. “But that part of West Texas is the toughest place to conduct an adequate CWD surveillance program because so few deer are harvested out there each hunting season. Thanks to the cooperation and active participation of several landowners, we were able to begin getting an idea of the prevalence and geographic distribution of the disease without needing to remove many deer.”

The TAHC regulates cervid species not indigenous to Texas such as elk, red deer, and sika deer. TAHC oversees a voluntary CWD herd monitoring status program with the intent to facilitate trade and marketability for interested cervid producers in Texas. Cervid herds under either TPWD or TAHC authority may participate in the commission’s monitored CWD program. The basis of the program is that enrolled cervid producers must provide an annual herd inventory, and ensure that all mortalities during the previous year were tested for CWD and the disease was not detected.

Wildlife biologists, hunters, and landowners would certainly have preferred for Texas mule deer populations to have not been dealt this challenge, but TPWD and TAHC have developed a CWD Management Plan that includes management practices intended to contain the disease. The management plan includes input from the CWD Task Force, which is comprised of deer and elk producers, wildlife biologists, veterinarians and other animal-health experts from TPWD, Texas Animal Health Commission, Department of State Health Services, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine, and USDA.

The disease was first recognized in 1967 in captive mule deer in Colorado. CWD has also been documented in captive and/or free-ranging deer in 19 states and 2 Canadian provinces, including neighboring New Mexico.

“We know that elk in southern New Mexico are also infected with CWD,” said Dr. Dee Ellis, State Veterinarian and TAHC Executive Director. “It will take a cooperative effort between hunters, the cervid industry, and state/federal animal health and wildlife agencies to ensure we keep this disease confined to southern New Mexico and far West Texas. I am confident however that will be able to do that, and thus protect the rest of the Texas cervid industry.”

More information on CWD can be found on Na href=”” target=”_blank”>TPWD’s website, or at the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance website.

More information about the TAHC CWD herd monitoring status program may be found online.

TAHC Now Accepting Comments on Chronic Wasting Disease Rule Proposal

Read news release [PDF]

TAHC Modifies Entry Requirements Effective Immediately for Cervids

AUSTIN –The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) announced that effective immediately it is has determined that Red deer (Cervus elaphus), and Sika deer (Cervus nippon) are “susceptible species” for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and therefore must meet the same entry requirements as other cervid species regulated by the agency such as elk and moose. The new entry rules for Red deer and Sika deer will require they originate from herds with at least five years of participation in a herd certification program from states where CWD has been detected, and at least three years participation in programs from states that have not found CWD thus far.

The agency decision was based in part on the disclosure that a farmed Red deer herd in Minnesota was confirmed positive for CWD in May of this year. Further, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released an interim final CWD rule on June 8, which designates Sika deer and Red deer as susceptible species. The USDA rule is intended to establish minimum requirements for interstate movement of deer, elk, moose, and other susceptible cervids, and to also establish a national CWD certification program.

Under the new TAHC entry requirements, besides originating from a herd with three or five year status as described above, Red deer and Sika deer shippers must also obtain an entry permit and request entry in writing. Proper supporting documentation must also accompany the request for entry at least 10 days prior to the proposed entry date. More information on TAHC entry requirements related to cervids can be found online

Indigenous cervid species such as white-tailed deer and mule deer are regulated by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD), not the TAHC. Currently those species are entirely prohibited from entering Texas based on TPWD rules.

Deer Disease Test Results Come Back Clean

AUSTIN –Chronic Wasting Disease and Bovine Tuberculosis were not detected in more than 300 deer held illegally on an East Texas deer breeding facility, according to findings at the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory.

The test results mean these deadly wildlife diseases have not been discovered in Texas deer, and enable several deer breeding facilities whose stock had co-mingled with the illegally held animals to resume normal operations.

“We are greatly relieved with the results from the disease testing,” said Carter Smith, executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “We take disease issues very seriously because of the potential impacts to Texas’ natural resources, the public’s wildlife, and the multi-billion dollar hunting and deer breeding industries.”

While the lab results provide a positive conclusion to an extensive epidemiological investigation by state wildlife officials, they do not moderate the actions of a 77-year-old former deer breeder that led to the need for disease testing.

Billy Powell pleaded guilty on June 14 to the felony offense of smuggling at least 37 white-tailed deer, over a 3-year time span, from Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio into Texas in violation of state and federal laws. CWD has been documented in at least 10 counties in Illinois, posing a direct link for disease risk in Texas as a result of Powell’s illegal importation activities.

“It is regrettable that Mr. Powell forced the state to take this action in the first place,” said Smith. “After he repeatedly smuggled deer illegally into Texas and risked introducing devastating diseases into both wild deer herds and penned deer operations, thereby threatening the state with immense economic harm, the Department had no choice but to step in. Quite simply, the hundreds of thousands of deer hunters who go to the field annually in pursuit of wild game and the thousands of landowners who manage the state’s wildlife responsibly don’t deserve to have their enjoyment of wildlife jeopardized by someone who shows such little regard for the public’s resources.”

The implications from a CWD outbreak in Texas’ internationally recognized white-tailed deer population, both free-ranging and captive, would be significant. Deer hunting is an important cultural and recreational component of Texas lifestyle, pursued annually by more than 600,000 sportsmen, and has an economic impact to the state in excess of $2.2 billion a year, according to published reports. In addition, studies show deer breeding activities have an economic impact in Texas of about $650 million annually.

CWD was originally described in captive animals 35 years ago in Colorado. However, during the last five years, the fatal disease has been detected in free-ranging cervids in several surrounding states and Canada. In 2002, a year after Texas closed its borders to importation of deer due to disease risks, CWD was reported in free-ranging deer in South Dakota, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Illinois, and Utah.

Currently, 20 states and Canadian provinces are tagged as having documented CWD in their deer, elk or moose. The progression of the disease into new areas remains persistent. In 2005, West Virginia detected a positive. Virginia got a confirmed case in 2010 and this year Maryland joined the list of infected states.

Further proof that CWD can spread, remain dormant for years and ultimately impact a resource; a shipment of elk from an infected herd in Canada to Korea in 1997 went undetected for nearly 10 years. Despite tracing back the imported animals, which were euthanized for testing in 2005, CWD persists in that country. Last year, one out of three elk slaughtered for human consumption on one farm tested positive for CWD; the entire herd of about 100 animals had to be euthanized. CWD appears to pose no threat to human health.

More than 1,200 permits are issued annually to deer breeders in Texas covering an estimated 80,000 whitetails held in captivity. The vast majority of deer breeders operate within guidelines designed to minimize risk of disease transmission. Since CWD surveillance efforts were initiated in Texas a decade ago, more than 35,000 deer samples have been submitted for testing. TPWD has tested only about 800 illegally-possessed deer from 32 different violators.

“People ask me if I’m confident we don’t have CWD in Texas after testing that many animals, and I tell them my confidence level grows each year,” said Mitch Lockwood, TPWD’s big game program director. “But, that confidence drops to zero every time we learn about a deer being smuggled into the state. The threat is real and the consequences can be substantial; just ask any of those other states that are dealing with CWD in their deer herds.”

New Chronic Wasting Disease Surveillance Regulations Proposed for Free-Ranging and Captive Elk in Texas

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a fatal, degenerative brain wasting of elk, white-tailed and mule deer, has not been detected in Texas, but maintaining surveillance for the condition is essential for animal disease response and trade purposes. The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), the state’s livestock and poultry health regulatory agency, has proposed new regulations to ensure adequate CWD surveillance of captive and free-ranging elk moved within the state. The TAHC will accept comments on the proposed elk rules through November 9, and the TAHC commissioners will consider the rules for adoption at their December 8 meeting in Austin.

“White-tailed deer and other deer species have been under existing CWD surveillance programs through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the TAHC,” said Dr. Bob Hillman, Texas’ state veterinarian and TAHC executive director. “The TAHC also offers voluntary CWD herd status programs for captive deer and elk to qualify the animals to be moved to other states. Furthermore, the TAHC has had importation rules in place for several years.”

“Elk are not considered to be native to Texas, and although they are under the regulatory umbrella of the TAHC as exotic hoof stock, we did not have legal authority to require CWD testing of this species until House Bill 3330 went into effect September 1,” said Dr. Hillman. The newly enacted legislation not only provides the needed authority, but also sets a Class C misdemeanor penalty for noncompliance. “We have worked closely with an elk industry task force, to develop a CWD program for elk being moved within the state. This will not only provide the disease surveillance we need, but it will also assure the health and marketability of these magnificent animals.”

“The TAHC commissioners, at their September meeting, proposed the regulations that contain the four components necessary for adequate CWD surveillance of elk being transported from their premises: authority to conduct inspections of facilities, animals and records when necessary; movement record keeping; animal identification; and testing. If adopted, the proposed elk regulations would replace existing TAHC rules that are limited only to record keeping and the identification.”

The proposed CWD elk regulations:

  • Distinguish captive elk as those contained behind a fence at least seven feet high and free-ranging elk as those without the confines of a high fence.
  • Require that any elk being moved or transported within the state have a visible, official identification device (ear tag) approved by the TAHC.
  • Specify the content of reports that are to be completed and submitted to the TAHC within 48 hours of moving elk. Buyers and sellers of elk are to maintain records of elk movement for at least five years, and the TAHC is to be allowed access to ranch facilities and records when necessary for disease surveillance.
  • Set the number of CWD tests that are required prior to moving elk from a herd.

The statistical test numbers are based on whether the elk are free-ranging or captive, and the number of animals being moved. In free-ranging elk herds, an average of one elk must be tested for every 10 moved. For captive elk herds, the testing rate is higher; one elk is to be tested for every five moved.

Under the TAHC’s proposed regulations, elk would be test-eligible at 16 months of age or older, and tests conducted in a herd would be valid for a year. Animals tested must be euthanized or harvested, allowing for the collection of brain tissue for laboratory examination.

“The captive elk herd testing is at a higher rate, as these animals are usually maintained in closer confines for long periods of time, creating a greater risk of transmission, if disease is present. CWD is manifested in infected mature deer and elk, and as the degenerative disease progresses, the animals may stagger, drop weight, lose bodily functions, grind their teeth, and salivate excessively,” said Dr. Hillman. “Because captive elk are sold and traded commercially, we also want to maintain the highest credibility for this industry, assuring high health standards.”

“Some groups of elk will be exempt from the CWD herd testing,” explained Dr. Hillman. “No testing of the herd is necessary if elk are being moved directly from the premises (farm or ranch) to a state- or federally inspected slaughter plant. Tissues can be collected for laboratory submission at the slaughter plant.”

Also exempt from testing are captive elk herds that have “Level A” status (one year) in the TAHC’s voluntary CWD monitored herd program. Owners of enrolled herds maintain annual inventories, identify animals individually, and ensure that testing is conducted when death losses occur in animals 16 months of age or older.

“Although we have not detected CWD in deer or elk in Texas, we must remain vigilant and prepared to address the disease,” said Dr. Hillman. TAHC regulations are in effect to address a CWD-infected deer or elk herd. Actions would include, but not be limited to long-term quarantine, epidemiological investigation of animals moved into and from the herd, and the humane euthanasia and testing of suspicious and high-risk animals,” said Dr. Hillman.

Comments on the TAHC’s proposed regulations must be submitted in writing by emailing, or by mailing them to: TAHC Comments, Box 12966, Austin, Texas 78711-2966. Comments must be received by November 9. Copies of the text of the proposed regulation may be obtained on the TAHC web site. To have a copy faxed or mailed, call the TAHC at 800-550-8242, ext 710.

CWD was first recognized in 1967 in a research facility with captive wild deer in Colorado. Since then, the disease has also been detected in free-ranging elk in Colorado, in free-ranging deer and elk in Wyoming, South Dakota and New Mexico, and in free-ranging deer in Utah, Wisconsin, Illinois, West Virginia and New York. In Colorado and Wyoming, infected moose also have been found.

CWD-infected captive elk herds have been detected and depopulated in Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, Montana, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Infected captive deer herds have been depopulated in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and in Michigan and New York. As of March 2009, the USDA reported that infected captive elk herds existed in Colorado and Minnesota. A captive deer herd was under quarantine in Wisconsin.

Dr. Hillman said researchers believe CWD is transmitted when infected elk or deer are in close contact with others, or when their bodily wastes containing the disease-causing abnormal proteins, or “prions” contaminate feed or water. Once susceptible animals are exposed, deteriorative changes occur in the animal’s brain, eventually causing death.

“Hunters should always avoid sick, staggering or strange-acting animals,” said Dr. Hillman. “A number of diseases, including rabies, could cause erratic behavior. To date, there has been no evidence of spread of CWD to humans, but hunters should always take precautions when processing wild animals. Wear gloves, goggles and cover the nose and mouth to avoid blood splatter in wounds or the face. Wash thoroughly after handling an animal carcass. Make reports about staggering or erratic animals to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department or the Texas Animal Health Commission.”

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