Seale says fewer animals contract CWD than die from anthrax exposure each year. A hunter might bring down a mule deer or Sica deer and have it test negative for CWD, but when he gets home to put it in the freezer, his wife may refuse to cook and serve it to the family.

“Hunters who spend money on hunting the animal in the first place are going to be reluctant to bring the deer home, so it this kind of negative public perception that will have a long-reaching affect on the exotic industry for years to come,” he added.

Wildlife experts say CWD was detected in Wisconsin over ten years ago but monitoring programs put into place there have not only been effective, but also may have saved the industry.

“Venison is a regular meat choice in Wisconsin and when this problem first surfaced there breeders and stockmen embraced the new requirements and did what they had to do to sustain the industry. But in Texas hunting is the primary reason to sustain Sica and Red deer herds, and while hunters will consume the animals they take, there isn’t a large demand for venison outside the hunting community, so the stakes are different in Texas compared to Wisconsin,” Seale says.

Mike Vanacek with V-Bharre Ranch near Meridian, Texas, says Sica deer and Red deer are big attractions on their exotic hunting ranch, but he was unaware of the new TAHC rules when Southwest Farm Press contacted him for comment this week.

“This is the first I have heard of it, but you can bet I will be checking into this right away,” he said, but warned it is too early to gauge what response he and his partners will take. “This is something we will have to research and explore. But it is likely to be a major development for us.”

Seale advises exotic game operators in Texas not to panic over the new rules and encourages voluntary participation in the monitoring program. He reminds the public that CWD has never been detected in the human population and compares the disease to other types of illness among both domestic and exotic animals.

“The elk industry in Texas took a big hit years ago over similar issues and chances for recovery aren’t that good. It would be sad to see Sica deer and Red deer go down the same road. Managing a herd requires dealing with animal health issues and this new rule isn’t any different. In Texas we have a state agency that works well with producers, and learning to live within new rules is just something we must do if want to see these types of animals on Texas ranches in the future,” he said.