Texas has become the 18th state to confirm Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in its mule deer population after two animals tested positive for the disease in early July.

The animals were collected during regular sampling tests in the Hueco Mountains in Hudspeth County after mule deer in New Mexico were reported positive in mid-June. Following that incident, Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPWD) biologists and Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) officials established an immediate containment zone in an effort to prevent the movement of the disease outside the area of detection.

“Texas Parks & Wildlife was notified by animal health officials in New Mexico back in February that mule deer near the Texas border had tested positive for CWD and we immediately called together our special task force to freshen our plans for response,” reported Clayton Wolf, Wildlife Division Director for TPWD in the Trans Pecos region. “We have known and planned for a long time the possibility CWD would reach our state borders so we had a very clear direction on what to do in response.”

Wolf, TWPD Trans Pecos Mule Deer Coordinator Shawn Gray and TAHC Assistant Executive Director Dr. Andy Schwartz fielded reporter questions during a special teleconference Tuesday afternoon.

With the assistance of cooperating landowners, TPWD, TAHC, and USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services biologists and veterinarians collected samples from 31 mule deer as part of a strategic CWD surveillance plan designed to determine the geographic extent of New Mexico's findings. Both infected deer were taken from the Hueco Mountains of northern El Paso and Hudspeth counties.

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.

Tissue samples were initially tested by the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in College Station, with confirmation by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.