State Rolls Out Strict Chronic Wasting Regulations For Texas Deer Breeders
This year, no Texas deer rancher has suffered more than Robert Patterson who owns the Texas Mountain Ranch in Medina County.
In June, a two-year old buck died from a broken neck at his ranch. Voluntary testing confirmed that it had Chronic Wasting Disease, an illness that prompts deer to stop eating.
Since then Texas Parks and Wildlife officials have euthanized 42 more of Patterson’s deer and found 3 positive for the disease. Patterson says that’s cost him almost a half-million dollars in livestock.
Now as officials try to prevent the spread of wasting disease Patterson is urging officials test free-roaming deer, which live outside breeding and hunting ranches
“I’m supporting some type of regulation for testing, maybe in a confined geographic area, whether it is a county or a partial two-county, but there is a need for testing. But there is a need for Texas Parks and Wildlife to test non-high fenced deer as well, they need to test free-roaming whitetail, because my belief is chronic wasting disease is prevalent throughout the state, it just hasn’t been tested,” Patterson stressed.
Patterson made that proposal as a Parks and Wildlife task force met in Austin Thursday with about 100 deer breeders. Parks’ commissioners will vote in the coming week on the task force’s proposals aimed at controlling the disease.
One proposal that faced a lot of opposition called for deer breeders test all of their captive deer that die for chronic wasting disease; then tag the rest of their deer with a radio-frequency ear tag if they’re moved to another ranch or hunting lease.
Breeders said the tags would be so visible hunters would be turned off.
But breeders seemed to accept another proposal. It calls for testing the brain tissue of all deer killed this hunting season if the hunting ranch has purchased animals from a captive breeding facility.
Carter Smith, the Director for Texas Parks and Wildlife, says that would tell officials if the disease has spread beyond the ranches.
“And so the proposal as it exist now is to test 100-percent of all captive bred deer that are liberated in the wild to help give us a sense of whether that disease is present,” Smith explained.
Smith says that should give the state a better idea how many deer in the wild are infected.
Patterson says that proposal makes a lot of sense, though it may be too late for his business.
“This problem has effectively put us out of the deer business, but you know you still have the ability to have deer with a big ranch that you can still see and you can enjoy,” Patterson said.
In addition to Patterson’s 42 deer, officials have euthanized another 75 from other ranches which have had contact with Patterson’s deer. Those ranchers like Patterson will be forbidden to sell or transfers their buck’s which can bring up to $30,000.
Other herds with no record of contact with Patterson’s deer can sell their deer. A big auction is in San Antonio is schedule for August 15.
Once approved the new restrictions aimed at curbing chronic wasting disease will remain in effect during the 2015 – 2016 hunting season.