State officials are reminding hunters and meat processors in South Texas that additional precautions are required when handling deer carcasses due to concerns about spread of fever ticks in the region. The general deer hunting season opens Nov. 1.
Portions of Zapata, Starr, Jim Hogg, Maverick, Dimmit and Webb counties are under preventive quarantine for livestock by the Texas Animal Health Commission due to heightened levels of fever ticks outside the permanent quarantine zone along the Rio Grande border. The total affected quarantine area covers more than 1 million acres. Contact the land owner or manager to determine the current fever tick status, if you are hunting in these counties.
Cattle, horses, white-tailed deer, nilgai and elk can act as a host for the tick, perpetuating its population.If not contained, according to TAHC officials, the fever ticks will continue to spread northward outside the permanent fever tick quarantine area and could become re-established in other areas of Texas and throughout much of the south, southeast and parts of California.
"We're telling hunters to use common sense and take precautions when handling and transporting deer taken on ranches within the quarantine zone," said Mike Berger, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department director of wildlife.
According to the TAHC, fever ticks can affect the condition and general well-being, but are unlikely to cause death in deer. It is safe to eat venison from fever tick-infested deer. Deer harvested on infested, exposed, adjacent and check premises must be inspected, treated and permitted prior to being removed from the premises. If you kill a deer on other properties within the temporary quarantine areas, you have three options:
1. Remove the hide completely and leave it on the ranch. If the skull is needed for proof of sex, seal it in a bag, then dispose of the skull away from livestock or wildlife after the carcass is processed.
2. Freeze the hide for 24 hours.
3. Have the hide/cape inspected and treated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Fever Tick Force before removing it from the ranch.
A permit for movement issued by a representative of the Commission must accompany the shipment of the hide and cape.
"There is too much at stake here to take a chance on inadvertently carrying this deadly parasite outside the quarantine zone and we are asking hunters to be vigilant to help keep this tick from spreading," Berger stressed.
Fever ticks are capable of carrying and transmitting a protozoa or tiny blood parasite that destroys red blood cells, causing the deadly livestock disease, "Texas Fever." Cattle are highly susceptible to "Texas Fever," and the disease may kill up to 90 percent of infected cattle.
"It took more than 50 years to eradicate fever ticks from the U.S.," said Dr. Bob Hillman, TAHC executive director and Texas' state veterinarian. "We have taken extraordinary precautions against expansion of fever tick infestation into other counties or other areas of the Texas. Compliance with these measures is extremely important to prevent the spread of this dangerous tick." A permanent fever tick quarantine zone runs through eight South Texas counties along the Rio Grande to prevent the reintroduction of the ticks into Texas and the U.S.
Additional information on fever ticks may be found on the TAHC web site at http://www.tahc.state.tx.us.