AUSTIN – Over the next week or so, El Paso residents may see a low flying helicopter in and around the Franklin Mountains as the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) conducts aerial mule deer surveys in the area.
This year’s survey runs from February 19 through 25. Each year, TPWD flies surveys throughout the Trans-Pecos to estimate the region’s mule deer population.
Normally the surveys do not include the Franklin Mountains, but that is changing due to two deer in El Paso testing positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD) in recent years.
CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects certain deer species, and it has been documented in northern Hudspeth and El Paso counties.
The surveys in the Franklin Mountains are intended to monitor local deer numbers and assess any impacts from CWD.
The first case of CWD in Texas was discovered in 2012 in free-ranging mule deer in the Hueco Mountains of far West Texas. The disease has since been detected in free-ranging mule deer, white-tailed deer, and elk in Dallam and Hartley counties, located in the northwest Panhandle.
The first case of CWD in Texas white-tailed deer was found in a Medina County deer-breeding facility in 2015 as a result of routine disease monitoring.
Increased testing requirements resulted in the detection of CWD in 4 additional deer breeding facilities and two release sites adjacent to the CWD-positive deer breeding facilities. CWD was also detected in a free-ranging white-tailed deer in Medina County in 2017 — for details and chronology of CWD detections in Texas, see CWD Positives in Texas webpage.
With the discovery of CWD in a captive deer breeding facility in south-central Texas, the Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) Commission adopted comprehensive CWD Management Rules on June 20, 2016.
Developed through a collaborative process that involved substantial stakeholder input, these rules address CWD management associated with permitting programs that authorize intensive deer management activities — for more information, read the Comprehensive CWD Management Rules PDF.
More information on CWD can be found on TPWD’s website.