Amarillo, TX - A disease fatal to deer recently appeared in central Texas and state wildlife officials are now asking area hunters to help track it.
Deer from captive breeding facilities in Medina and Lavaca Counties have tested positive for chronic wasting disease, which is a rare, neurological disease that affects deer, elk and moose and has no cure.
Now state wildlife officials are trying to get ahead of it before it spreads. The next time you hunt, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) asks you donate the head of your kill to science.
"They are encouraging hunters to participate in submitting samples and tissues from hunter-killed deer so that we can get an idea of maybe if it's more widespread than where it is in these two counties right now," said Dr. Gayman Helman, the director of Amarillo's Texas A&M Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, which is partnering with the TPWD.
To test for chronic wasting disease, biologists need samples from a specific brain tissue so they would like hunters to bring in the entire head of the animal they kill. "There is only a small part of the brain that is tested, so it really takes a trained individual to remove the brain and to identify that part that we need for testing," explained Helman.
While the disease does not affect humans, it can be detrimental to the deer population if it spreads because there is no cure. Hunting in Texas is a $2.2 billion economy and state officials don't want the disease to put it at risk.
"There are still a lot of unknowns about the disease in terms of its transmission so its important that we control it," said Helman. "The state is doing a great job. They are trying to keep ahead of it and hopefully eliminate it within our deer population."
For a list of where you can submit your deer or elk samples, click here.