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CWD voluntary check stations & informational meeting announced

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

White-tailed deer, one of Bandera’s biggest cash crops – are susceptible to chronic wasting disease.

With hunting season looming on the horizon in Bandera County, officials are looking for ways to protect a local cash crop – white-tailed deer.
During a regular meeting on Thursday, Sept. 8, Texas Parks & Wildlife District Leader Rufus Stephens requested support from the Bandera County Commissioners for a push to identify deer with chronic wasting disease (CWD).
Accompanied by TPW Biologist Johnny Arrendondo, Stephens asked commissioners fund utility costs as well as costs associated with a garbage disposal unit to be located at a voluntary check station at the Tarpley Volunteer Fire Department during hunting season. The station would check harvested white-tailed deer for CWD.
According to Stephens, the on-going epidemiological investigation of CWD has led to the discovery of additional CWD-positive deer in captive breeding facilities and released deer in high-fenced properties in Medina County. “This has caused TPWD officials to designate a CWD Surveillance Zone that incorporates parts of Bandera, Medina and Uvalde counties,” he said.
Through voluntary testing of harvested deer, TPWD officials hope to determine whether CWD is prevalent in the free-ranging deer inside the designated surveillance zone.
Judge Richard Evans noted that should the surveillance zone be changed to one of “containment,” ranchers’ income and property values could be affected. “You can’t take any part of an animal out of a containment zone – and that includes heads and antlers,” Evans said. “No one will pay money to hunt in containment zones.”
Stephens said the check station would be manned from 9 am to 9 pm, seven days a week, between Oct. 1 and Jan. 15, 2017. “Hunters are asked to bring their harvested white-tailed deer – or just the head – to the check station where a wildlife biologist-technician will collect samples for testing.
He estimated that the designated surveillance zone in the portions of the three counties contained approximately 1,700 deer.
Post-mortem testing to detect the presence of the disease is done on brainstems and thyroid glands of harvested deer. Additionally, deer killed by vehicles will also be tested.
Stephens noted that the Tarpley VFD had given permission to utilize their facilities that included the grounds, electricity and utilities. “However, they have asked for compensation for utility use,” Stephens told the court.
He also requested that the county fund the rental of a garbage disposal container to dispose of the deer carcasses and other debris that accumulates during the operation of the check station. He estimated the total cost during the hunting season to be approximately $1,000.
Realizing the possible gravity of the CWD situation, commissioners approved Stephens’ request unanimously.
Last summer, CWD was discovered in deer at a breeding ranch in Medina County. Earlier, during the 2014-2015 hunting season, a tissue sample collected from a mule deer harvested in far West Texas tested positive for CWD. This was the only confirmed case in Texas during that hunting season.
Stephens said in the Hueco Mountains and two other areas, mandatory check stations are in effect for any harvested deer.
In a related matter, TPWD officials, in conjunction with Medina, Bandera and Uvalde counties, will host an informational meeting about CWD and the sampling efforts within portions of those counties for the 2016-2017 hunting season.
The meeting will take place at 5:30 pm, Thursday, Sept. 15, at the Tarpley Volunteer Fire Department School House, 264 Valentine Lane, in Tarpley.
Officials will explain how landowners, hunters and interested residents can help maintain a voluntary surveillance zone in the area.
The informational session will cover:
• a brief explanation about CWD
• how the discovery of CWD in northwestern Medina County might affect residents of other counties
• The TPWD CWD surveillance plan for this area and how to assist TPWD with CWD surveillance and sample collection.
The session will also review the following documents for more information about CWD:
• CWD Fact Sheet
• Deer Handling and Processing Recommendations
• TPWD CWD News Release
CWD is a member of the group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. Among cervids, CWD is a progressive, fatal disease that commonly results in altered behavior as a result of microscopic changes made to the brain of affected animals.
An animal may carry the disease for years without outward indication, but in the latter stages, signs may include listlessness, lowering of the head, weight loss, repetitive walking in set patterns and a lack of responsiveness.
To date, no evidence exists that CWD poses a risk to humans or non-cervids. However, as a precaution, medical personnel with the US Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend not consuming meat from infected animals.
For more information on this important subject, contact Arredondo in Bandera County at 830-928-9037 or johnny.arredondo@tpwd.texas.gov.