State officials have euthanized 34 deer at a Medina County breeding ranch, where a buck tested positive for chronic wasting disease last month.
The deer were euthanized Tuesday at the Texas Mountain Ranch north of Hondo, and owner Bob Patterson valued them collectively at $280,000, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
"It's heart-wrenching. It's devastating," he said. "It's tough all the way around."
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A 2-year-old buck tested positive for the disease in June after dying in an accident, marking the first CWD case in a captive-raised deer in Texas. The disease affects the brains and nervous systems of deer and elk, and isn't considered a threat to human health.
The only other CWD ever found in Texas was in seven, free-ranging mule deer in the Waco Mountains in 2012, according to state officials, who have allowed continued hunting of that herd since the area is remote.
The state is tracking deer bought and sold by Patterson, and State Veterinarian Dee Ellis predicted the probe would yield other positive results of CWD.
Authorities say they decided to start testing Patterson's herd with 35 deer considered at the highest risk of contracting CWD; one of them was killed last week due to an antler infection. Officials say their brain stems are undergoing testing and the results are due next week, which will help determine if any more deer from the ranch will be euthanized for testing.
Texas allows captive-bred deer to be released into the wild, raising the prospect of possible infection of native deer, said Clayton Wolf, director of wildlife for the Texas Parks and Recreation Department. Last month's positive test has prompted state officials to restrict the sale and movement of deer held by most breeders as they investigate its origin and reach.
Ellis said he's trying to craft CWD guidelines that protect native deer but also permit the sale, movement and release of captive-raised deer deemed to be low-risk.
"We're trying to balance the risk to wildlife with the need for business continuity for captive breeders," he said.