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Texas Wildlife Officials Kill Herd Of 75 Deer As Precaution

By Nerissa Knight, CBS 11 News
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Whitetail deer buck.  (Photo credit Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept.)

Whitetail deer buck. (Photo credit Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept.)

QUINLAN (CBSDFW.COM) - State wildlife officials killed a herd of 75 deer in the Hunt County Town of Quinlan Monday.

They say the deer posed a threat to wildlife and livestock throughout the state.

But some in Hunt County did not want the deer destroyed.

Diane Johnson doesn’t have an opinion either way about the euthanasia, other than she enjoys seeing deer in her area near her parents’ home. “I like the deer and I think they’re pretty and clean,” she said.

CBS 11′s Nerissa Knight reports:

For years deer have been a part of the rural landscape here in Quinlan.  But Monday afternoon on a private 200-acre ranch, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials euthanized an entire herd of 75 whitetail deer, saying it was their only choice in keeping other Hunt County animals safe.

Texas game wardens say the state’s entire economy could be affected.  According to wardens the captive and privately breed whitetail deer here could be infected with chronic wasting disease, which is similar to bovine spongiform encephalopathy — also known as “mad cow disease.”

Chronic wasting disease is not known to transfer directly to people.  But there have been a handful of cases in other states where people have died from a similar brain wasting disease after eating venison that could have been infected with CWD.

Game wardens say the only way to test for CWD is by killing the animal and examining its brain tissue.

State officials say the problem is that the deer are undocumented. They don’t know where the deer came from or how long they’ve been here. The ranch owners were convicted of state and federal deer trafficking violations.

Steve Lightfoot, a spokesman for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department explains, “This is an unfortunate
consequence when someone violates the law and brings wildlife into the state undocumented. The threat and the risk of disease to the state’s wildlife resources is pretty strong. So, these are necessary steps we have to take to protect those resources.  Chronic wasting disease is a disease that affect the brains of certain animals deer, mule deer and it’s a fatal disease.”

However, some people who live around here, like Edward Smith, say their whitetail deer are fine.  They feel it’s senseless and inhumane to kill the whole herd.  “I think it’s unnecessary,” Smith said.  “I don’t think there should be reason to kill them if it’s not proof that there’s disease in the herd.”

But with the possibility of a threat that could cost the state beef and hunting industry hundreds of millions of dollars, officials say 75 deer are a small price to pay.

Lightfoot says, “There is no threat to humans. This is not something that can transfer into the human population. However there are other concerns. But we’re also concerned with other animal diseases like tuberculosis.  If TB were to get into the wild deer population and then be transferred into the livestock then the economic impacts could be pretty severe as well.”

Patsy Emanuel says she and her family understand.  “Sure it’s sad, but it’d be even sadder if there were more deaths than 75.”

State parks and wildlife officials say the venison will not be consumed.  They will bury the dead deer in an undisclosed mass grave.

Test results on the deer will be finished in about two weeks.

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