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Texas Parks and Wildlife opens more mandatory CWD check stations as deer season begins

Deer in suburban northwest Bexar County
Jerry Clayton
Deer in suburban northwest Bexar County

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CWD or chronic wasting disease continues to be discovered in deer populations across Texas. Most recently, captive deer were discovered with the disease in Kimble County, prompting Texas Parks and Wildlife to open more mandatory CWD check stations.

With deer hunting season upon us. It's important for hunters to be aware of the requirements and do their part to help the state fight the disease.

On this week's episode of Weekend Insight, TPR's Jerry Clayton speaks with Ben Olsen, a wildlife health specialist in Texas Parks and Wildlife Big game program.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Clayton: Tell us a little bit more about these check stations. They are mandatory, correct?

Olsen: Yes. So anywhere within one of our surveillance zones, any hunters that hunts within that zone, there are a couple of different rules associated with that. And part of that is any CWD susceptible deer, whether white tailed deer, mule deer, elk or other susceptible species, is required to be brought in to one of our check stations or our drop boxes within 48 hours of harvest.

Clayton: Are these cases mainly being found in deer breeding facilities, or is it also showing up in the free-range population?

Olsen: There are cases of both free ranging deer and captive deer facilities. The majority of them at this time are around captive deer facilities.

Clayton: From your vantage point, does it seem that CWD is expanding exponentially across the state or are we just finding more cases because we're looking harder?

Olsen So I would say we're finding more cases of it. Part of what we're doing with the surveillance zones are to collect more information so that we can learn a little bit more of what's going on statewide. So, we have an area that has a positive and put in these surveillance zones in order to continue to test within that surrounding area to get a better idea of what's going on in terms of prevalence of the disease, as well as it helps us manage the disease.

And so, part of that information is what we're continuing to collect. And so hopefully over the next year or so, we'll continue to to learn more about the prevalence of the disease in the state.

Clayton: What is the state's overall plan to try and eradicate CWD?

Olsen: So, in addition to the testing requirements within the zones, we also have carcass movement restrictions. And that is trying to limit the risk of spread of the disease.

When a hunter collects a deer, they're going to eat the meat, maybe keep their antlers. And so, there's a lot of the carcass that doesn't get used. And those carcass movement restrictions make sure that those parts are disposed of in a proper way.

Clayton: What else do Texas hunters need to know going into deer season this year?

Olsen: Education is always super important. This is a disease that is very different from a lot of other diseases that we commonly deal with, and so there's a lot to learn about it. And so, I would encourage anybody that has an interest in learning about the disease to check out our Texas Parks and Wildlife CWD webpage. We just updated a lot of information on that this year.

Additionally, we also just released a couple of videos on our Texas Parks and Wildlife YouTube page that walk hunters, or anybody interested in what to expect at a check station or how to use one of our self-service drop boxes. I would encourage folks to take a look at that as well.

Additionally, I would also add that that anybody that's interested in having a deer tested, whether they're within a zone or outside of zone, we're always collecting those samples and happy to provide that service to hunters.

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Jerry Clayton can be reached at jerry@tpr.org or on Twitter at @jerryclayton.