Obvious responses to CWD are blocked by the economic interdependence of universities, agencies, conservation organizations and legislatures with the agricultural and agrochemical giants. Decisions within this coalition of special interests are often based internal politics, turf fights and cronyism.
Another block is the crippling dogma of invasive species “biology”, which most agency staffers were trained to believe is science.
These together explain why most “managers” to some degree advocate removal of cattle, high fences, animal eradications, artificial feeding of deer including compounds often lethal to other wildlife, and the use of range poisons. Though many know better, they are financially dependent on the system, and Big Wildlife does not look kindly on dissent.
NOTE: this post initially appeared on SAExpressNews.com on Sept 16, 2015
Chronic wasting disorder found in Lavaca County.
Deer are held in a captive breeding program in Karnes County this year. Four deer in Medina County and one in Lavaca County have tested positive for chronic wasting disease.
A captive-raised deer in Lavaca County has tested positive for chronic wasting disease, the first in Texas involving a whitetail outside Medina County, where four other cases have surfaced since the outbreak was discovered there in June.
The breeding facility has been quarantined. State officials did not identify it when announcing the discovery late Tuesday. The deer had been transported there from Texas Mountain Ranch in Medina County, where a buck that died accidentally was the first whitetail to test positive for the contagious neurological disorder.
Three other deer subsequently tested positive at the Medina County ranch owned by Robert Patterson, which also is under quarantine and still the subject of an investigation.
Chronic wasting disease is a fatal disease affecting deer, elk and moose that’s caused by replication of a malformed protein, called a prion, which degrades nerve cells. A form of spongiform encephalopathy similar to mad cow disease, it is believed to be spread through saliva, blood, urine, carcasses, and infected plants and soil.
Officials are worried that the outbreak might spread to wild deer. In a bid to determine its origin and reach, the Texas Animal Health Commission and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department have enacted an aggressive testing regime at Texas Mountain Ranch and other facilities that bought and sold deer there.
The state’s emergency response plan drafted in August tightened restrictions on the movement of other captive-bred deer and established new testing requirements for deer planned for “liberation” by breeders in advance of hunting season. The state also plans to increase testing of hunter-harvested deer on a voluntary basis.
In Lavaca County, south of Interstate 10 midway between Houston and San Antonio, County Judge Tramer J. Woytek was briefed early Wednesday by Shannon DeForest, the local agricultural extension agent.
“We’ve been educating the public about the disease, but, obviously, it’s become more of a current issue now because it’s been confirmed here,” DeForest said. “There’s not a lot of breeding facilities, but hunting is a very popular outdoor activity in Lavaca County.”
Word about the deer discovered there with CWD was just getting around locally.
“I don’t think it’s going to be that big of a deal if it’s just one case,” said Tim Layton, manager of Brush to Bay Outfitters in Hallettsville, which specializes in bow-hunting. “If there were three or four cases, there may be a little bit of an uproar.”
Some in the deer breeding industry have complained that the state is overreacting to the latest outbreak of the disease, which was first identified in 1967 in captive mule deer in Colorado and is now found in 23 states and two Canadian provinces.
“It is undeniable that the response to this disease has been far worse than the disease itself,” Patrick Tarlton, executive director of the Texas Deer Association, said at a Sept. 3 legislative hearing on the issue in Hondo.
He called for increased surveillance of wild deer and said there is no evidence to support increased testing of herds held by breeders who have not sold or traded animals with Texas Mountain Ranch.
Parks and Wildlife Department spokesman Steve Lightfoot responded later by noting that the CWD emergency plan is an interim measure, adopted with support from stakeholders that uses science-based risk management protocols.
“To say that this has been a difficult and emotional process for stakeholders would be an understatement, but we are confident that the current emergency rule and future plans will grant hunters, breeders, wildlife managers and state regulators the assurances they need to ensure that Texas’ white-tailed hunting remains the best in the nation,” Lightfoot said.
Given the straight jacket of bad science, worse decisions and destructive wildlife practices, the CWD outlook is bleak. The public is inattentive and gullible, yet only an aroused public can break Big Wildlife’s headlock. The optimistic view is that in all probability, things must get worse before they can get better.