It’s been an on again, off again rollercoaster ride for Texas Parks & Wildlife and Texas Animal Health Commission officials and Texas deer breeders and hunters, but effective mid-October, the latest and final proposed rule concerning Chronic Wasting Disease in Texas cervids is ready for public review and comment for a 45-day period.

The proposed rule comes in the wake of the discovery of CWD in two mule dear earlier this year in the Hueco Mountains in far West Texas near the New Mexico border, the first such cases of the disease within Texas borders. At the time of that discovery, TPWD had already prepared a set of proposed CWD rules, but those were put on hold until state biologists and officials at the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) could take a closer look at the implications brought about by an actual case(s) of CWD in the state and by building pressure nationwide to adopt a national standard regarding the movement of cervids across state lines.

The proposed changes to the rules are garnering wide interest across the state among members and supporters of the state’s lucrative hunting industry and especially in the commercial cervid breeding industry. In both cases, especially the later, changes in the rules could result in additional financial responsibilities and potential losses in the way the industries conducts business.

TAHC is proposing amendments to existing rule 40.1, concerning definitions, existing rule 40.2 concerning general requirements, existing rule 40.3 concerning herd status plans for cervidae, existing rule 40.5 concerning testing requirements for elk, and new rule 40.7, an Executive Director Declaration of a CWD Movement Restriction Zone. The proposed amendments are for the purpose of revising a number of the current requirements to address a variety of recent actions involving CWD within the state.

TAHC currently provides a voluntary herd monitored status program for species that are susceptible to CWD. Currently, all breeders of white-tailed deer, through the direction of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, participate in a CWD monitoring program through either TPWD or TAHC. The new rule amendments will require additional cervid species to participate in surveillance for CWD.

Following the discovery of the two mule deer in Texas that tested positive for CWD, the creation of CWD Movement Restriction Zone(s) was established with restrictions put in place to protect against the exposure and spread of CWD into additional regions of the state. These actions are being taken in a coordinated effort by both TPWD and the Commission.

TAHC and TPWD say these proposed state rules come just after USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced an interim final rule to establish a national CWD Herd Certification Program and minimum requirements for interstate movement of deer, elk and moose, or cervids, in the United States, but the program is designed to be voluntary, and state officials say they believe mandatory rules are critical in making certain CWD does not spread rapidly.