As Texas deer hunting season approaches, West Texas property owners and hunters who use leases in Hudspeth and El Paso Counties for hunting mule deer are being encouraged to attend one of several public meetings being staged by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) officials. The meetings will address new rules related to protocols developed as part of the Department’s new Chronic Wasting Disease response plan.

The initial public hearings, which will include special workshops on the issue, will be staged Oct. 2 in Fort Stockton at the Pecos County Civic Center; Oct. 3 in Alpine at the Alpine Independent School District Auditorium; and Oct. 4 in Van Horn at the Van Horn Convention Center.

The recently adopted response plan is being implemented after tissue samples from two mule deer in far West Texas this past summer tested positive for CWD. These are the first cases of CWD ever detected in Texas deer.

The workshops are being held in conjunction with the public hearings to inform landowners, hunters, and outfitters specifically in the care of meat, appropriate management actions, and check station requirements across the response zone throughout hunting season. TPWD will present proposed amendments to deer movement rules, answer questions and take public comment during the public hearing segment of those meetings.

“We recommend that hunters in the Containment Zone and High Risk Zone quarter deer in the field and leave all but the quarters, backstraps and head at the site of harvest if it is not possible to bury the inedible carcass parts at least 6 feet deep on the ranch or take them to a landfill,” said Shawn Gray, mule deer program leader for TPWD.

CWD is a member of the group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Other diseases in this group include scrapie in sheep, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease) in cattle, and Cruetzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.

CWD among cervids 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. CWD is not known to affect humans.