Texas Parks & Wildlife proposes hunting zones to help stop ‘zombie deer disease’

Hunters in these zones would have to report harvests

SAN ANTONIO – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department could add containment and surveillance zones to stem the spread of chronic wasting disease, or “zombie deer disease,” in South-Central Texas.

Commissioners are expected to discuss the ideas in upcoming meetings on Aug. 24-25, and if proposals are passed, the new laws could affect hunters this upcoming season.

A news release from TPWD says containment or surveillance zones could be created or expanded in portions of Bandera, Duval, Jim Wells, Kimble, Live Oak, McMullen, Medina and Uvalde counties.

Containment zones include areas where the disease has been detected in captive or free-range cervids, like deer or elk. Surveillance zones mean the areas are at high risk for chronic wasting disease.

In both zones, hunters would have to provide a sample of harvested deer and would be prohibited from moving a whole deer carcass out of the zone.

“This means animals must be quartered before leaving the zone and brought to a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) check station within 48 hours of harvest,” the release states.

The proposals include:

  • The extension of containment zone three in Bandera, Medina and Uvalde counties, including a five-mile radius of a positive case in free-ranging deer. The disease was discovered in the northern and southern parts of the zone.
  • The creation of a surveillance zone in Duval, Jim Wells, Live Oak and McMullen counties. The boundary would be U.S. Highway 281 to the east, State Highway 44 to the south, U.S. Highway 59 to the west and Farm to Market Road 624 to the north, according to TPWD. The disease was detected in 2021 in a deer-breeding facility.
  • The creation of a containment zone in Kimble County, including a two-mile radius of a deer-breeding facility where the disease was detected in 2020 and 2022.

Those outside the zones can voluntarily submit their harvest for testing at a TPWD check station for free. To see a map of check stations, click here.

“Testing for CWD allows wildlife biologists to get a clearer picture of the presence of the disease statewide,” the release states. “Proactively monitoring for CWD can greatly reduce the risk of the disease spreading to neighboring captive and free-ranging deer populations.”

The disease is fatal for certain cervids, and causes weight loss, stumbling, tremors, excessive thirst, salivation or urination, loss of appetite, teeth grinding, abnormal head posture and/or drooping ears, the release adds.

It never goes dormant and can remain on land for several years.

As of last month, 371 captive or free-ranging cervids in 14 Texas counties have tested positive for the disease.

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Rebecca Salinas joined KSAT in the fall of 2019. Her skills include content management, engagement and reporting.