State plans to euthanize large herd of white-tailed deer

QUINLAN, Texas - The State of Texas is making final preparations to destroy a Hunt County herd of 75 captive deer on Monday.

Officials with Texas Parks and Wildlife say it's a precaution against introducing a devastating illness into the state called chronic wasting disease, or CWD. CWD has been compared to mad cow disease.

The animals cannot be tested unless they are dead. However, the breeders say the herd is healthy and the animals deserve to live.

James and Jimmie Anderton, father-and-son breeders in Quinlan, were convicted on federal charges of illegally transporting a deer from Arkansas into Texas in 2002. They are currently serving time in federal prison. The state is concerned the Arkansas deer could have infected the Andertons' herd with CWD and has ordered the herd destroyed.

Though CWD has ravaged the deer populations of at least ten other states, it has never been detected in Texas' population of four to five million deer. But, the economic devastation it could do to the hunting industry would run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

"We're doing it to protect the deer in Texas, not to hurt anybody or damage someone's particular herd," said Capt. Garry Collins, a TPW spokesman . "It's about the resources of the state is what we're trying to protect."

As registered Texas deer breeders, the Andertons have submitted nine animal carcasses for official testing since 2006. All results were negative for CWD.

Collins agrees there is no evidence the herd is infected. In fact, he said he hopes all 75 tests come back negative on the Anderton herd. The discovery of even a single infected animal would lead to a search for other Anderton deer sold to ranches across Texas. That could lead to the systematic destruction of those herds, too.

That possibility is very small, which is what sticks with Sharon Anderton, who is caring for the deer while her husband and son are in prison.

"People don't have to appeal to me," she said. "They don't have to feel sorry for me. They don't have to feel sorry for James or Jimmy. It's just the bare fact of coming out here and killing a whole herd of animals. That's the whole thing."