The risk level of Bovine Tuberculosis in far West Texas will be the topic at a special meeting this week at the Hudspeth County Courthouse in Sierra Blanca as Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) and Texas Department of Animal Health (TAHC) officials address deer and elk hunters, property owners and interested citizens who have expressed concern over the health and safety of the region's mule deer and elk population.
State officials have organized the meeting in an effort to encourage input on an expanded TB surveillance program that requires hunters to submit tissue samples of harvested cervid in parts of El Paso and Hudspeth counties during the season. The TB surveillance program is being conducted in association with an active Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) tissue collection program already in progress.
In addition to tissue sampling of elk and mule deer, the TB surveillance program also includes testing of susceptible cattle, sheep, goats, and swine. Cervid that have been and will continue to be tested include exotic hoof-stock, free ranging deer and captive cervids.
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Bovine tuberculosis is a chronic, debilitating disease of cattle caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis. Human tuberculosis is caused by a closely related type of bacteria and was historically known as "consumption." A variety of other species may be susceptible to cattle tuberculosis, including captive elk and exotic deer, bison, goats, swine, man and even cats. Sheep and horses are rarely affected.
Bovine TB is primarily a respiratory disease affecting lungs and chest lymph nodes of animals. Symptoms can include progressive weight loss, chronic cough, and unexplained death losses.
Chronic Wasting Disease
Chronic Wasting Disease is a transmissible neurological disease of deer and elk that produces small lesions in brains of infected animals. It is characterized by loss of body condition, behavioral abnormalities and death. CWD is classified as a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), and is similar to mad cow disease in cattle and scrapie in sheep.
Although CWD is a contagious fatal disease among deer and elk, research suggests that humans, cattle and other domestic livestock are resistant to natural transmission. While the possibility of human infection remains a concern, it is important to note there have been no verified cases of humans contracting CWD.
Texas Parks & Wildlife biologists say the TB surveillance program has offered hunters an opportunity to provide valuable tissue test samples that could lead to the continued protection of the state's deer and elk population. They say the testing requirements are in direct response to a bill passed by the 83rd Texas Legislature, a law targeting animal diseases that threaten deer populations in Texas.
All mule deer and elk harvested within the CWD Containment Zone, which covers portions of Hudspeth, Culberson, and El Paso counties, are required to be submitted for testing at mandatory hunter check stations within 24 hours of harvest. Hunters who harvest deer in the Containment Zone outside the general season under the authority of MLDP (Managed Lands Deer Permits) will need to call TPWD at (512) 221-8491 the day the deer is harvested to make arrangements to have the deer sampled for CWD and TB.
Outside the containment zone, voluntary sampling of harvested deer is being encouraged. For information about the participation in voluntary testing programs, hunters and the general public are encouraged to contact TPWD officers or wildlife biologists in their county.
The special meeting in Hudspeth County will be held Thursday, December 19 at 7 p.m. Mountain Time at the courthouse in Sierra Blanca to discuss this expanded surveillance effort with landowners and other interested parties.