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Deer Breeders Hint At Suing State Over Chronic Wasting Rules

Ryan E. Poppe

Last summer Texas Parks and Wildlife officials began working on state regulations for testing the state’s deer population for chronic wasting disease, an illness that can wipe out entire herds of deer at a time.  One year later,the disease is still being detected and the state has devised new plans that aren’t sitting well with deer breeders and captive deer ranchers.

The new regulations are a change from the state commission’s previous policy that all deer suspected of Chronic Wasting Disease be killed first before being tested.  Now, ranchers who breed and house captive deer can conduct live testing of the animals for the first time.

But the cost of that testing will fall on the deer breeders and ranchers.  Patrick Tarleton with the Texas Deer Association says it’s an unfunded mandate and a burden for these businesses.

“Under the emergency rules, breeders tested about 11,000 animals, these rules could potentially have the effect of testing 50-plus thousand animals, that’s an increase of about five-times the amount of testing," Tarleton explains.

Tarleton says deer breeders and captive deer ranchers are ready to take their fight against the regulations to the courtroom.

Carter Smith is the executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.  He says the new rules are in place to make sure the disease does not spread across both the wild and captive deer population.

“The debate is not about low-fence vs. high-fence or breeders vs. anti-breeders, it’s how do we help try to detect and contain a disease that affects the entirety of our state’s 4 million deer," Smith explains.

Smith says last month the agency found a mule deer in the Texas Panhandle that had died from chronic wasting disease in the wild.  So far Parks and Wildlife officials have not detected transmission of the disease among the state’s wild whitetail deer population.