CWD and high-fenced deer go hand in hand. Chronic Wasting Disease was created in a government-funded, high-fenced experimental wildlife facility near Fort Collins, Colorado. They won’t say what was being done to these confined animals, but instead spin the story to imply CWD appeared spontaneously. The same agencies that created the conditions and experiments that triggered the emergence of CWD now benefit from public funding to “control” CWD.
NOTE: post originally appeared on KSAT.com on February 22, 2016
Chronic wasting disease found in Medina County herd
MEDINA COUNTY, Texas – Texas Parks and Wildlife Department crews at Texas Mountain Ranch, in Medina County, are aiming to reduce the number of white tail deer in the pasture and protect the state’s deer population.
The department said it’s part of the final herd agreement for the facility where chronic wasting disease was first discovered.
The KSAT Defenders have been following CWD since July of last year. When KSAT arrived at Texas Mountain Ranch early Monday morning, Texas game wardens stopped the crew from entering the facility at the service gate they were using. Instead, they pointed the KSAT crew toward the front gate, where ranch owner Robert Patterson greeted us and let us in the assigned safety zone created for the operation.
Patterson said he felt like a prisoner in his own home. On a day he fought to never see, all he could do was stand by helplessly.
“I would have much rather been involved and be able to go throughout our ranch the way we normally do,” Patterson said.
He described his fight as no longer being about deer but about his property rights.
“Texas Parks and Wildlife became sovereign,” Patterson said. “They don’t have to report to anyone except the legislators. My goal is to be able to visit with legislators and let them know exactly how their citizens are being treated in the state of Texas and hopefully get it changed.”
A spokesman for Texas Parks and Wildlife, Steve Lightfoot, said the agency is just carrying out the agreement Patterson signed in September. The goal for hunter-harvested deer was around 100, leaving about one white tailed deer per 50 acres in the pasture. Prior to the arrival at the ranch Monday, Lightfoot said only three were submitted for CWD testing from Patterson’s facility.
Texas Parks and Wildlife hopes that by closing the chapter at Texas Mountain Ranch, the agency can focus on the other two CWD-positive facilities. One is in neighboring Uvalde County; another is in Lavaca County. Lightfoot said both owners are still waiting for their final herd plans to get additional CWD samples taken.
“Several of these deer were liberated from those same pens where we found the CWD positives. So in order to minimize further transmission in a contaminated environment, we’re looking to reduce numbers,” Lightfoot said.
Texas Parks and Wildlife had about 20 employees at Texas Mountain Ranch on Monday and planned to be at the facility every day until their target quota is met.
CWD is most often compared to mad cow disease. Although deadly, it often takes years for infected deer to show signs. Texas Parks and Wildlife experts say CWD doesn’t pose a threat to humans. However, if a hunter-harvested deer is found to be CWD positive, it is asked that the brain stem and spinal cord not be eaten.
“There’s never been a deer die from CWD. None of the deer that’ve been killed, which I think according to Texas Parks and Wildlife is several thousand, were sick,” Patterson said.
The ranch owner hoped cooperating in the earlier stages would have allowed for renegotiations of the contract. But that didn’t prove to be the case.
The total number of CWD cases found in captive white tailed deer in Texas stands at eight.
High fences — public or private — and their associated practices, prompt the spread of CWD. This fact has nothing to do with political persuasion, property rights, public rights, personal preference, hunting ethics, a person’s like or dislike of deer breeders or the motivation of any person, group or agency who might confine deer behind high fences.
Like its cousin Mad Cow Disease, CWD was started and spread by subjecting deer to feedlot conditions; industrial agriculture practices are becoming increasingly widespread in wildlife “management.” These include unnatural crowding, restricting animal mobility, artificial breeding, artificial feed, mineral supplements, administering hormones, antibiotics and other unwholesome additives, and removing predators.
The ideology called ‘invasive species biology’ contributes to the CWD problem by encouraging attacks on biodiversity through animal eradications, and range poison programs which indiscriminately kill thousands of species of plants and soil life. Proponents of invasive species biology maintain that habitats and animal communities are threatened by “competition” from “invasive” plants and animals including many natives. Their ill-conceived and unnecessary eradications further disrupt nature’s balance and harm wildlife, plants, soil life and habitat. Sick systems spread CWD, other diseases and parasites —and not just to deer.
TPWD has drunk the invasive species Kool-Aid. It implements many of these scientifically-unjustified practices on its own managed lands and parks. It encourages and rewards the same practices among the landowners it advises and regulates.
Texas’ deer policy suffers from a bad case of schizophrenia: by law deer belong to the public but by regulation they can be treated like livestock. Texas’ wildlife policy claims to protect wildlife populations, increase public hunting opportunities, and pledges that all decisions affecting wildlife will be made according to sound science. For a long time now, Texas has not been following the law of the land or its own policy.
This must change. Everywhere we look we see overgrown, slow-moving, overreaching bureaucracies harming the resources and the people they were created to protect.
While high fences and some intensive management practices may remain as part of the physical—and political—landscape, at the very least Texas’ own wildlife agency should follow and promote sound science and lead with good examples. If TPWD can’t deliver on these basic principles, the agency should be dismantled and reassembled in a smaller form around the only two things it does which are legitimate government functions: running our parks and protecting wild animals from unscrupulous hunting.
These elk are Texas natives, and an invaluable potential hunting and viewing species for the Texas public. Wild Texas elk are at risk for two reasons. First, they are very vulnerable to CWD. Second, as a matter of TPWD’s written policy, all elk are eradicated as “invasive” “exotics” on land, wildlife management areas, and parks managed by TPWD in far-West Texas.