An emergency ruling from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission has established two new surveillance zones to look for chronic wasting disease (CWD).

Located in Limestone and Gillespie counties, these zones were established to monitor and slow the spread of CWD, which affects deer and meat harvested from the animals.

“CWD is a fatal neurological disease affecting certain susceptible cervid species including white-tailed deer, mule deer, red deer, and elk,” a press release explains. “The disease is highly transmissible and can remain infectious on the landscape for several years. If left unmanaged, CWD can have long-term impacts on the native deer herd and local economies.”

“Clinical signs may include progressive weight loss; incoordination; excessive thirst, salivation, or urination; loss of appetite; teeth grinding; abnormal head posture; and/or drooping ears. These signs may not become evident until years after animals first become infected. Therefore, testing remains the best available tool for detecting CWD at an early stage and containing it with appropriate management strategies,” the release continued.

Over 400 cervids across 16 counties have tested positive since the disease was discovered, including elk, red deer, and white-tailed deer. It was first known in 1967, according to the press release.

John Silovsky, the TPWD Wildlife Division Director, explained, “Testing for CWD allows wildlife biologists and animal health officials to get a clearer picture of the prevalence and distribution of the disease in those areas. Proactive monitoring improves the state’s response time to a CWD detection and can greatly reduce the risk of the disease spreading further to neighboring captive and free-ranging populations,” Silovsky said.

Any mule deer or white-tail deer hunted in these zones must be taken to a TPWD check station no later than 48 hours after being harvested. The press release states that a CWD receipt is provided before the animal can be taken.

The zone in Gillespie County covers just over 117,000 acres of land with two check stations. These stations are in Doss and Harper. The zone also expands into parts of Mason and Kimble counties.

The Limestone County zone takes up around 118,000 acres. According to the press release, the check station for this zone can be found in Coolidge. The zone also reaches parts of Hill and Navarro counties.

Hunters can also volunteer to submit deer meat for CWD checking if they are not in a required zone.

“To date, the risk of CWD transmitting to humans appears to be low; however, as a precaution, public health authorities recommend not consuming meat from infected animals,” the press release shares.