LUBBOCK, Texas — Texas Parks and Wildlife officials have asked the public to look out for chronic wasting disease (CWD). The neurological disease has spread throughout deer in Texas, attacking their brains and causing them to act almost like zombies before eventually killing them.
“It overwhelms the population and pretty well turns these deer in zombies,” said Judd Blanchard, a local hunting guide.
It can sometimes take up to two years for symptoms to show in deer, making the disease especially insidious because it can be difficult to track before then.
“The deer are real skinny, or it looks like they’re foaming out of their mouth, and kind of like they’re wandering around lost, like they just, they have no sense of direction,” said Blanchard.
If it is not caught early and contained, the disease can decimate populations.
“This disease is known to be spread through direct contact from infected animals such as nose to nose contact, they can be spread through saliva, urine feces,” said Mitch Lockwood, Director of the Big Game Program for Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Deer that come into contact with environments or carcasses of deer exposed to CWD can also contract the disease. It’s already been detected in 10 counties mainly along the Texas-New Mexico border, the most recent one was in Lubbock County in the Buffalo Springs area.
For hunting guides like Blanchard, this poses big problems.
“The state of Texas, all over anywhere, is a huge hunting market,” he said. “If it does spread any worse than what it is, we won’t, I mean, we won’t be able to eat any of these animals.”
That could push hunters to go outside the area to hunt, ultimately hurting our local economy.
“Hunters have told us through surveys over the last several years that if the prevalence gets beyond their comfort level, they will go look for new places to hunt,” said Lockwood. “So it’s very important to try and manage this disease so that that doesn’t happen.”
Texas Parks and Wildlife is asking the public to report deer looking really skinny and sick, foaming at the mouth, or very disoriented. They recommended hunters get their deer carcasses tested for CWD as well.
“We’re likely going to need to establish what we call CWD zones or containment zones,” said Lockwood.
They’re hoping they detected this case early in Lubbock, however, more testing will help find out how bad it actually is here.
“Susceptible species that are harvested, they would bring to a check station that we established in that area, we would collect the samples, we would send them off for testing and then we would provide the hunters the test results,” said Lockwood.
Though there’s no evidence of the disease spreading to humans, Texas Parks and Wildlife recommend that as a precaution, hunters should not consume any meat from deer with the disease.
For more information on what those containment zones might look like in Lubbock, follow Texas Parks and Wildlife for the latest information.
By: Amy Koczera