McLennan County judge blocks TPWD order requiring breeders to kill 29 deer after potential exposure to Chronic Wasting Disease

Deer file
Deer file(MGN ONLINE)
Published: Sep. 7, 2023 at 4:58 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A McLennan County judge temporarily blocked orders from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that would have required two local deer breeders to kill 29 deer because they came from a facility where one tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease.

McLennan County deer breeders Steven Wieser and Jason Chancey are suing the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, TPWD Wildlife Division Director John Silovsky and the state of Texas, and are seeking a permanent injunction to prevent the state from forcing them to kill their deer stock and destroying their livelihoods.

Judge Gary Coley Jr. of Waco’s 74th State District Court on Wednesday granted a temporary restraining order and has set a Sept. 18 hearing at which the men will seek a temporary injunction.

The TRO prevents the TPWD and its agents from enforcing any kill orders on the breeders’ operations and prohibits the department’s officers from entering their properties to attempt to kill any animals, at least until the lawsuit is resolved.

TPWD spokeswoman Lerrin Johnson said Thursday that the agency was not aware of the lawsuit and declined comment.

According to the lawsuit, filed on the breeders’ behalf by Waco attorney David Dickson, Wieser and Chancer received letters from the TPWD informing them that “trace deer” that tested positive for Chronic Waste Disease at another facility were traced to their facility.

Trace deer are animals shipped in from other locations that are tracked by TPWD officials. TPWD officials ordered them to kill all trace deer at their breeding facilities and submit their heads for testing.

Wieser and Chancey received a similar kill order on June 23 that the animals must be killed by July 1. However, as an alternative to such drastic measures, they submitted a request for a testing plan that would allow each animal to be live tested for Chronic Wasting Disease, according to the lawsuit.

“The August 30, 2023, letter blindsided plaintiffs because they had not yet had the chance to propose a custom testing plan, and TPWD had denied their alleged request for a custom plan,” the lawsuit states.

Of the 29 deer ordered by TPWD to be killed, 24 are does with twin fawns that will die if the mothers are killed, the suit alleges.

“While not directly part of the order, all 48 fawns will die, too, if the TPWD order is carried out,” the suit claims. “Not only are the deer near and dear to plaintiffs, but they also represent a significant financial investment. The five bucks on the kill order are worth $15,000 - $50,000 each, and the mother does themselves are worth $9,500 each. All the fawns were carefully bred to the highest quality and are bred to be CWD resistant.”

The suit alleges that all the deer affected by the kill order have an approximate total value of $1 million. The breeders contend the 29 traced deer at their facilities are being sequestered from the other deer at their operations.

“Currently, the deer in plaintiffs’ facility are in no danger of even potentially contracting CWD,” the suit alleges. “Essentially, the TPWD is ordering the slaughter of valuable and cherished deer without testing them first on the off chance that the deer might have CWD.”

None of the deer at the plaintiffs’ facilities have tested positive for CWD, the suit claims.

“The ordered slaughter of 24 does and five bucks will cause irreparable damage to the plaintiffs’ operations,” according to the lawsuit, which alleges constitutional due process violations. “The damages are not limited to the extensive financial loss that plaintiffs will suffer, but it will also result in the loss of a gene pool that took years to cultivate and thousands of dollars to execute.”