Wildlife officials issue emergency order following positive CWD tests at deer breeding sites

Health officials say there’s no evidence that suggests the disease is harmful to the public

A deer is seen in Liberty State Park on June 24, 2021 in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)
A deer is seen in Liberty State Park on June 24, 2021 in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images) (Getty Images)

AUSTINEditor’s note: We have been told by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that CWD is not commonly referred to as ‘Zombie Deer Disease’ despite multiple reports from other outlets. We have reached out to the CDC for more information and will update this story with further details.

Deer at six breeding sites in the state have recently tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease, prompting an emergency order from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Officials announced the order Tuesday and said they will secure the CWD-positive deer at the six facilities, enhance CWD testing at other breeding sites that have received deer from the positive sites, and they will not release any CWD-positive deer to help mitigate the spread.

“This is a terribly unfortunate development that we are committed to addressing as proactively, comprehensively, and expeditiously as possible,” said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director, in a release.

CWD disease is described by wildlife officials as a “slow and progressive” fatal disease that can be found in deer, elk, moose and other cervids, or members of the deer family.

Although the disease may not be detected for several years, TPWD officials said, as it progresses, animals will show changes in behavior and appearance.

These may include progressive weight loss, stumbling or tremors, excessive thirst, salivation or urination, loss of appetite, teeth grinding, abnormal head posture, and/or drooping ears. There are no treatments or vaccines available for the disease, according to the CDC.

Health officials say there’s no evidence to suggest that it can be passed to humans, but it could pose a risk to non-human primates that eat meat from CWD-positive animals or “come in contact with brain or body fluids from infected deer or elk.”

The disease was first discovered in Texas in 2012 in free-ranging mule deer in the area of Hueco Mountains, near the Texas-New Mexico border, according to wildlife officials.

It has since been detected in 228 captive or free-ranging animals, which include white-tailed deer, mule deer, red deer and elk in 13 Texas counties, the TWPD said in a release.

You can learn more about CWD here.

More on KSAT:

Wildlife officials: Deer tests positive for ‘zombie deer’ disease, Northwest of SA


About the Author:

Cody King is a digital journalist for KSAT 12. She previously worked for WICS/WRSP 20 in Springfield, Illinois.