MEDINA COUNTY, Texas – Texas Parks and Wildlife Department crews at Texas Mountain Ranch, in Medina County, are aiming to reduce the number of white tail deer in the pasture and protect the state's deer population.
The department said it's part of the final herd agreement for the facility where chronic wasting disease was first discovered.
The KSAT Defenders have been following CWD since July of last year. When KSAT arrived at Texas Mountain Ranch early Monday morning, Texas game wardens stopped the crew from entering the facility at the service gate they were using. Instead, they pointed the KSAT crew toward the front gate, where ranch owner Robert Patterson greeted us and let us in the assigned safety zone created for the operation.
Patterson said he felt like a prisoner in his own home. On a day he fought to never see, all he could do was stand by helplessly.
"I would have much rather been involved and be able to go throughout our ranch the way we normally do," Patterson said.
He described his fight as no longer being about deer but about his property rights.
"Texas Parks and Wildlife became sovereign," Patterson said. "They don't have to report to anyone except the legislators. My goal is to be able to visit with legislators and let them know exactly how their citizens are being treated in the state of Texas and hopefully get it changed."
A spokesman for Texas Parks and Wildlife, Steve Lightfoot, said the agency is just carrying out the agreement Patterson signed in September. The goal for hunter-harvested deer was around 100, leaving about one white tailed deer per 50 acres in the pasture. Prior to the arrival at the ranch Monday, Lightfoot said only three were submitted for CWD testing from Patterson's facility.
Texas Parks and Wildlife hopes that by closing the chapter at Texas Mountain Ranch, the agency can focus on the other two CWD-positive facilities. One is in neighboring Uvalde County; another is in Lavaca County. Lightfoot said both owners are still waiting for their final herd plans to get additional CWD samples taken.
"Several of these deer were liberated from those same pens where we found the CWD positives. So in order to minimize further transmission in a contaminated environment, we're looking to reduce numbers," Lightfoot said.
Texas Parks and Wildlife had about 20 employees at Texas Mountain Ranch on Monday and planned to be at the facility every day until their target quota is met.
CWD is most often compared to mad cow disease. Although deadly, it often takes years for infected deer to show signs. Texas Parks and Wildlife experts say CWD doesn't pose a threat to humans. However, if a hunter-harvested deer is found to be CWD positive, it is asked that the brain stem and spinal cord not be eaten.
"There's never been a deer die from CWD. None of the deer that've been killed, which I think according to Texas Parks and Wildlife is several thousand, were sick," Patterson said.
The ranch owner hoped cooperating in the earlier stages would have allowed for renegotiations of the contract. But that didn't prove to be the case.
The total number of CWD cases found in captive white tailed deer in Texas stands at eight.