Texas Chapter President Provides Testimony on CWD

By Dana Kobilinsky

Texas Chapter President Roel Lopez attaches a GPS collar to a deer Texas Chapter President Roel Lopez attaches a GPS collar to a deer that he trapped at Joint Base San Antonio - Camp Bullis. Lopez provided testimony about how to minimize the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease in Texas at a Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission special meeting, after a deer tested positive for the disease in a breeding facility.
Image Credit: Jared Beaver

Roel Lopez, president of the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society, recently provided testimony at a special meeting held by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission on chronic wasting disease (CWD), after the neurological disease that infects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose, was confirmed for the first time in a captive deer in Texas in a breeding facility in June.

Following the discovery in a two-year-old deer in Medina County, the Commission invited knowledgeable guests as well as their own staff to provide testimony at the meeting. The speakers also provided recommendations to the commission regarding how to move forward to minimize the spread of the disease to Texas’ free-ranging deer and to protect the captive deer breeding industry.

Lopez, who has been president of the Texas Chapter of TWS for about six months, was particularly concerned that the disease could spread further. “Deer are moved around and released into the wild from these facilities,” he said. “It hasn’t been found in free-ranging deer yet, but it is highly likely that deer transport or translocation can increase the risk of disease transmission.”

During his testimony, on behalf of the Texas Chapter of TWS, Lopez recommended three ways moving forward to minimize the spread of CWD. First, he recommended supporting the CWD Management Plan, a plan that was developed by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas Animal Health Commission and approved in 2012 to respond to a future CWD outbreak. The plan, which was created before the discovery of this infected deer, is based on the best available science and lessons learned from other states with CWD experience, according to Lopez.

“The issue has to do with the notion of continuing to move deer around in the breeding industry,” Lopez said. “The point we’re trying to convey as the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society was let’s let the management plan work; let’s not be hasty in making decisions about the movement of deer. We want to put measures in place to reduce or minimize the risk of transmission.”

Lopez also recommended providing agencies time to assess the issue and to respond. Finally, he suggested considering CWD response measures in the long-term. “We need to be proactive in addressing CWD,” he said. “Long term, we don’t want to have to deal with the ramifications of short-sighted decisions.”

Lopez also provided key research studies on CWD that describe how moving deer from place to place increases the spread of the disease. “We hope, from the Texas Chapter perspective, to provide a caution in terms of decisions made by the commission and agency management of deer in the state,” he said.

While Lopez sees the difficulty in minimizing the disease’s spread, he believes the recommendations he provided will be helpful in targeting the issue. “Texas Parks and Wildlife is doing an admiral job to address the issue at hand,” Lopez said. “We, as a chapter, are very supportive of their efforts.”

You can hear Lopez’ testimony, as well as that of the other speakers, on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission’s website.

Dana KobilinskyDana Kobilinsky is a science writer at The Wildlife Society. Contact her at dkobilinsky@wildlife.org with any questions or comments about her article. You can follow her on Twitter at @DanaKobi.

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