A case of the fatal neurological disease known as chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been confirmed in a free-ranging deer in Coleman County, as per the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). The announcement marks the first instance of such a disease in the region. In a low-fenced property, a two-year-old whitetail buck, harvested by a hunter, tested positive after samples were collected with the help of TPWD biologists.
The initial testing of the samples was carried out by the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, and the unfortunate confirmation came from the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Iowa. The disease, marked by a lengthy incubation period that spans years, often eludes early detection as affected animals don't show immediately noticeable signs. TPWD, recognizing the gravity of the situation and the need for prompt measures, is urging local hunters to get their harvests tested voluntarily.
Deer affected by CWD may exhibit progressive weight loss, stumbling or tremors, coordination issues, a lack of appetite, teeth grinding, and abnormal head posture, among other clinical signs. While these symptoms may take years to manifest, the disease is invariably fatal. CWD was first identified in Texas in 2012 among mule deer, and since then, it has been detected in various species across the state. TPWD has established best management practices for handling the disease, which are available on their CWD page.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will set up containment and surveillance zones to manage the spread of CWD, though these may not be up and running until 2024. They highlight the agency's efforts to proactively address the spread of CWD, which has appeared in both captive and free-ranging cervids in the state, including white-tailed deer, mule deer, red deer, and elk.