TPWD's Chronic Wasting Disease Plan Will be Aired Across Texas

Like its cousin Mad Cow Disease, CWD was started and spread by the confinement of animals in feedlot conditions, part of the larger body of industrial agriculture practices which are a growing part of wildlife “management”. These include artificial feed and supplements of minerals, hormones, antibiotics and other additives. This combined with the pseudo science of ‘invasive species biology’, which says habitats and animal communities are threatened by “competition” from “invasive” plants and animals, many of which are natives, leads to attacks on biodiversity through animal eradications and range poisons.

The system is inherently damaging to plants and animals. Increasing outbreaks of CWD and other diseases – and continued decline of wildlife and habitat – is inevitable.

NOTE: originally appeared on SAExpressnews.com on August 14, 2015

Fourth case of illness found

HONDO — The state’s strategy for responding to the chronic wasting disease found in deer raised in Medina County — with a fourth case confirmed Friday, all from the same ranch — will involve increased testing of both captive-bred and hunter-harvested deer.

New rules that take effect Aug. 24 establish conditions that must be met before breeders, most of whom have been banned from shipping deer since July, can sell or transport deer in advance of hunting season, which begins in October.

Officials unveiled the plan this week at a packed church hall here before concerned hunters, ranchers and deer breeders. Similar meetings are planned in the next few weeks across the state.

For the first time, the state will require testing of deer at sites where animals from breeder herds are released. Voluntary testing will be available for hunter-harvested deer at state checkpoints and drop-off sites.

The potential threat of the disease’s spread among Texas’ estimated 3.9 million free-range deer — and more generally, to a deer hunting industry worth $2.1 billion annually — has led the state to limit the release of captive-raised deer to properties enclosed by high fencing.

“We’re the only state that allows people to liberate breeder deer,” Clayton Wolf, director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s wildlife division, told the audience of about 135 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Hondo on Tuesday. “This year, we’re not going to allow any low-fenced liberation.”

CWD management zones: Proper disposal of carcasses is recommended for big game harvested in any area identified as a Containment Zone or High Risk Zone, in order to minimize the risk of spreading CWD via infected carcass parts to other areas of the state.

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal disease affecting deer, elk and moose that’s caused by replication of a misformed protein, called prions, which degrade nerve cells and can cause animals to become emaciated, act erratically, adopt a wide stance, slobber, and drink and urinate excessively.

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, according to Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service literature distributed at the meeting. It can’t be transmitted to humans or livestock, officials say.

The plan was crafted in recent weeks by the Texas Animal Health Commission and TPWD officials in consultation with stakeholder groups.

Texas uses the brain stems of deer, which exhibit a spongy appearance in infected animals, for post-mortem CWD tests. Officials are exploring the accuracy of live testing on tonsil and rectal tissues.

David Aaron, a deer breeder from Floresville in the audience, said he was satisfied with most elements of the state plan.

“The only regret I have is it’s going to be a mad rush even if we get released (to move deer) Aug. 24,” he said Wednesday. “The industry’s got a lot of deer to move.”

About 10,000 farm-raised deer are sold and released each fall from among the 110,000 held by 1,300 breeders statewide, who are required to submit samples for testing from at least 20 percent of mortalities.

Wolf agreed that there has been “a sense of urgency in the deer breeders’ industry because Sept. 22 is the last day they can release deer with antlers.”

An estimated 30,000 wild deer have been tested since 2003, but the only positive CWD results returned on them were from seven mule deer in far West Texas diagnosed since 2012, Wolf said.

He said an additional 15,000 tests on breeder stock yielded no positive CWD results until late June, when the disease was found in a 2-year-old buck that died in an accident at “the index site” in Medina County.

The “index site” is how state staffers refer to Texas Mountain Ranch, north of Hondo. In response to the June case, 42 deer there were euthanized for testing, and three additional positive results were confirmed, including the one Friday. More testing there hasn’t been ruled out, Wolf said, and the state is screening deer among 30 facilities that provided 126 deer to the ranch in the past five years and among the 706 deer it sent to 147 other facilities.

The ranch’s owner, Robert Patterson, couldn’t be reached for comment on the state plan but has said he was cooperating with Texas authorities and that every captive deer that had died on his ranch in recent years had been tested, not just the required one out of five.

“We’re collecting extra samples at the positive site to use newer technologies to see if we can develop live tests,” Wolf said. “If we can get a valid live animal test, it’s really going to change our strategy.”

Roy Leslie of Kendall County praised the efforts of those involved but wondered about the wisdom of eating deer harvested on his land, saying, “I’m really concerned about what I tell my family and friends.”

John Tomecek, a wildlife specialist and assistant professor at Texas A&M University, told the church hall crowd there was “no evidence that humans are susceptible to that disease.”

As a precaution, he advised those processing deer to wear latex gloves and cover open wounds; remove the animal’s brain, spleen and lymph nodes; then disinfect knives and saws with a 50-50 mix of bleach and water. Carcasses should be buried at least 6 feet below ground to prevent contamination of the ground surface or plants, Tomecek said.

Some public health officials encourage people not to eat venison from deer known to have been infected until more research is conducted, according to the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance, a consortium of hunter organizations, though its website notes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has ruled out any foodborne danger as “extremely unlikely.”

Aaron, the deer breeder, is among those who suspect that CWD already has infected wild deer at rates exceeding those in captive deer.

“It’s not the end of the world,” he said. “You can still eat the deer. You have to be a little conscientious of how you process the deer, but there’s a whole lot of things out there that are worse than CWD, in my opinion.”

Tomecek said CWD was “almost impossible” to eradicate once deer are infected in an area and that many states have resorted to killing those herds off because there is currently no treatment or vaccine.

He said the first case of CWD was identified in 1967 in mule deer in Colorado. Since then, it has spread to 22 states and two Canadian provinces.

“The strategy of destroying infected herds has failed over and over again,” said Rusty Kimbrell, an audience member from Kerr County, who suggested the state buy the Medina County herd and conduct research on the animals rather than putting them down.

Besides the economic effect on rural communities, the subject is emotionally charged, Wolf said after the meeting.

“People get very passionate about deer hunting,” he said.

Claiming CWD-infected venison is wholesome is simply amazing: But then Big Ag and Big Wildlife also maintain that pink slime is beef, that antibiotics, hormones and chemicals fed to deer and cattle are harmless to humans, and that range poisons like tebuthiuron (Spike®), glyphosate (Roundup®) and 2,4-d (used in Agent Orange) are as safe as aspirin.

Obvious responses to CWD are blocked by the crippling dogma of invasive species “biology”. Another block is the economic interdependence of universities, agencies, NGOs and legislatures with the agricultural and agrochemical giants. Decisions within this coalition are often based on internal politics, turf fights and cronyism.

Most agency staffers were trained to believe that invasion biology dogma is science. They depend on and fear the system. Though many know better, most 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.

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 the public can change this. Tragically, things must get worse before they can get better.

Posted by Chris Gill

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