Groups make education of chronic wasting disease a priority
With the appearance of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in a Texas deer in July, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and others have made educating the hunting public about this disease and the necessary precautions to take a priority.
On July 1, a positive case of CWD was verified in a captive white-tailed deer in Medina County outside of San Antonio. The first and only other case was reported in far west Texas in 2012.
“Chronic wasting disease is a condition that affects the nervous system of deer, elk and moose,” said Dr. John Tomecek, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service wildlife specialist at San Angelo. “It is similar to diseases such as scrapie in sheep and goats, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE in cattle.”
This contagious disease among deer and elk causes abnormal behavior, weight loss and the untimely death of the animal. At this time, there is no vaccination to guard against it, and once infected there is no treatment or known cure.
There is no current evidence that CWD poses a threat to humans or that it is contagious to other animals outside of the deer family. However, it is suggested by Tomecek that hunters take precautions this hunting season and that hunters are educated before going out.
To achieve this goal, AgriLife Extension teamed up with the Texas Wildlife Association earlier in November on three town-hall style meetings across the state to offer hunters the information they need on this disease.
“We hope through these and earlier efforts that most of the public, especially the hunting public, have gained an appreciation of the potential seriousness of this disease,” Tomecek said in an AgriLife Today news release.
Tomecek said the town hall meetings, in combination with earlier webinars, were meant to educate hunters on this disease, its history, symptoms and transmission, as well as to inform the hunting public on how they can participate in monitoring efforts and to remind them of safe carcass handling practices.
“Hunters are critical, as they are our eyes in the field,” Tomecek said. “They can help by submitting tissue samples from harvested deer and by maintaining healthy deer densities as wildlife managers have done for years. Knowing what’s happening afield is the best way to prevent the spread of this disease should it show up in wild white-tailed deer populations.”