2 More Medina County Deer Have Chronic Wasting Disease

Two out of 35 deer from a Medina County breeding ranch have tested positive for chronic wasting disease, according to state officials.[[321061711,C]]

Steve Lightfoot of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said additional screening will be done on the white-tail deer from Texas Mountain Ranch at an Iowa federal facility to confirm the preliminary lab results, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

A state task force meeting was held Thursday to discuss a strategy to deal with the disease, which affects the animal's brains and nervous systems and isn't considered a threat to human health.

A buck from the ranch tested positive for the disease in June after it was killed in an accident, marking the first CWD case in a captive-raised deer in Texas. State officials say the only other CWD ever found in Texas was in seven, free-ranging mule deer in the Waco Mountains in 2012.

Testing of the ranch owner's herd with 35 deer considered at the highest risk of contracting CWD led to the two positive tests announced Thursday. Lightfoot said an additional seven deer were killed for testing last week, but results on them aren't available yet.

Texas allows captive-bred deer to be released into the wild, which raises wildlife officials' concerns that the disease could spread to free-ranging deer. The task force favors stepped up testing of captive animals and backs tightening state rules on when they may be transported or released.

The state response -- due out in coming days -- should be "fair and science-based," Texas Animal Health Commission Executive Director Dee Ellis said at the meeting, adding, "We're always told, `Don't let the program be worse than the disease itself."'

The state also is exploring the use of biopsies on rectum or tonsil tissue from live animals rather than the traditional brain-stem testing for the disease that is done post-mortem.

"Everybody wants to get to a place where live-animal tests can be the norm," said the parks and wildlife department's executive director, Carter Smith. "Everybody is anxious to get there, but we're not there yet."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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