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TPWD Proposes Deer Carcass Disposal Regulations

Public comment sought

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) seeks public comment until May 22 on proposed deer carcass disposal regulations and movement restrictions.

Current carcass disposal

Currently, hunters who harvest deer within a Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) zone must comply with carcass movement restrictions, which require quartering a hunter-harvested animal and leaving the most infectious parts of the animal (i.e., brain and spinal cord) within the zone. This approach helps mitigate the risk of CWD transmission. Current carcass movement restrictions, however, present an inconvenience for those hunters and landowners who have difficulty quartering or deboning deer and/or do not have access to a locker plant or deer processor within a zone. One proposed change would allow them the flexibility to travel to a processor and then have all unused carcass parts disposed of correctly.

“For most hunters, this proposal does not change how they currently care for their deer after harvest, since many hunters take the carcass to a commercial processor who properly disposes unused parts for them,” said Blaise Korzekwa, TPWD White-tailed Deer Program Leader.  “Hunters that process deer at home should dispose of the unused parts in their commercial trash service.  Hunters who prefer to quarter or debone their deer at the property where it was harvested only need to leave the remaining parts at that location to follow this new proposed rule.”

Proper disposal of all potentially infectious material is critically important for reducing the risk of disease transmission. If CWD is not contained and managed, the implications of the disease for Texas and its multibillion-dollar ranching, hunting, wildlife management and real estate economies could be significant.

The department has determined that a statewide carcass disposal rule will be beneficial by more clearly outlining easily accessible and acceptable disposal options for potentially infectious tissues, thus mitigating the potential spread of CWD.

Proposed carcass disposal

TPWD proposes statewide carcass disposal measures only for unused carcass parts from native deer (i.e. white-tailed deer and mule deer) harvested in Texas that are being transported from the property of harvest.  If carcass parts from native deer species are not being transported from the property of harvest, these carcass disposal rules would not apply.

Acceptable disposal options include:

  • Directly or indirectly disposing of the remains at a landfill permitted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to receive such wastes,
  • Burying the carcass at a depth of no less than three feet below the natural surface of the ground and covered with at least three feet of earthen material, or
  • Returned to the property where the animal was harvested.

TPWD also proposes to allow hunters to debone a carcass at the site of harvest provided proof of sex and tags are maintained until the hunter reaches the final destination. Meat from each deboned carcass must remain in whole muscle groups and maintained in a separate bag, package or container until reaching the final destination.

Containment Zone expansion

The proposed amendment concerning Containment Zones (CZ) would expand the geographical extent of CZ 2 and Surveillance Zone (SZ) 2 in the Panhandle in response to additional detections of CWD in free-range mule deer.

CZs refer to areas where CWD has been detected and confirmed. SZs identify areas where CWD has not yet been detected but is at risk for exposure to the disease.

The proposed amendment would also replace mandatory check station requirements with voluntary testing measures beginning September 1, in:

  • CZ 1- Hudspeth and Culberson counties
  • CZ 2- Deaf Smith, Oldham and Hartley counties
  • CZ 3- Medina and Uvalde counties
  • CZ 4- Val Verde County
  • CZ 5- Lubbock County
  • CZ 6- Kimble County

Surveillance Zones amendment

Similarly, the proposed amendment to Surveillance Zones (SZ) would replace mandatory check station requirements with voluntary testing measures in:

  • SZ 1- Culberson and Hudspeth counties
  • SZ 3 – Medina and Uvalde counties
  • SZ 4 – Val Verde County
  • SZ 5- Kimble County
  • SZ 6 – Garza, Lynn, Lubbock and Crosby counties

Mandatory CWD testing would still be in place for SZ 2 due to additional detection of CWD in free-range mule deer outside of CZ 2.

Additional proposed amendments would modify surveillance zones to only include portions of properties within a two-mile radius around a CWD positive deer breeding facility (the physical facility, not the boundaries of the property where the infected facility is located).

The proposed amendment also would eliminate SZ 10 and SZ 11 in Uvalde County and SZ 12 in Limestone County. Because of facility owner cooperation and multiple years of mandatory testing with no positive detections, the department has determined that the risk of CWD transmission has been sufficiently addressed in these areas. The affected deer breeding facilities signed agreements requiring a suite of CWD transmission risk mitigation strategies including depopulation, enhanced disease surveillance, targeted culling of exposed animals, and cleaning and disinfection, among other methods. In those areas where deer breeding facilities have not instituted such measures, it is not possible to eliminate SZ designations.

Provide comments:

  1. Online at the TPWD public comment page until May 22 at 5 p.m.
  2. Email comments to TPWD Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Hunter Reed, [email protected].
  3. In person at the TPW Commission meeting at 9 a.m. May 23 at TPWD’s Austin headquarters. Public testimony limited to three minutes per person.

—courtesy TPWD