Chronic Wasting Disease Awareness
Chronic Wasting Disease Awareness
With the start of hunting seasons across the country, it is important to review the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s rules and regulations on importing any out of state cervid harvest. Currently Tennessee is a Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) free state and TWRA is working hard on preserving this status.
CWD is a highly contagious and deadly neurological disease that causes a spongy deteriation of the brain of infected animals. CWD infects the members of the cervid family which includes white-tailed deer, elk, moose, mule deer, black-tailed deer, red deer, and sika deer. CWD is transmitted through animal to animal contact, animal contact with a contaminated environment and with contaminated feed or water sources. Prions are responsible for the CWD transmission, not a bacteria or a virus. Prions are misfolded or abnormal proteins found throughout the body but are concentrated in the eyes, brain, tonsils, spleen and lymph nodes of infected animals.
The environment including food and water sources become contaminated through prions being shed in the urine, saliva, blood, and feces of infected animals. Symptoms of the disease include: weight loss, drooling, loss of muscle control, difficulty swallowing, grinding teeth, excessive thirst, frequent urination, exaggerated posture, staggering, unusual behavior, and drooping of the head and ears. CWD occurs mostly in adults and symptoms can take up to 16 months to appear. The disease cannot be identified by symptoms or a live animal test. The only way to confirm the disease is to examine a deceased animal’s brain and lymph nodes.
Once CWD is established in a population it is impossible to eliminate. Preventing the disease is the best method of protecting Tennessee’s deer and elk herds. So, as a hunter that is planning a hunting trip in confirmed areas of CWD, you must lawfully prepare any part of the animal before entering into Tennessee. Tennessee Rule and Regulation 1660-01.15.02 states that no person may import, transport, or possess in Tennessee a cervid carcass part from any area that has a known case of CWD except provided herein:
Meat that has bones removed
Antlers, antlers attached to clean skull plate, or cleaned skulls (where no meat or tissues or attached to the skull)
Cleaned teeth (with all tissue removed)
Finished taxidermy and antler products
Hides and tanned products
In summary, meat which has bones removed along with cleaned antlers, cleaned skull plates, cleaned teeth, and finished taxidermy products are allowed.
The following 24 states and two Canadian provinces are included in the CWD importation ban: Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.
It is important to remember that CWD is not known to infect humans or livestock. However, The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that parts of an infected deer should not be consumed. Hunters can also be on the lookout for animals exhibiting symptoms of the disease. If an animal is encountered, do not touch, disturb, kill or remove the animal. Take pictures, a GPS coordinate, and contact the local regional office in the state that you are hunting to report a sick cervid.
To date, 80 free ranging elk and 9,394 deer have been tested for CWD in Tennessee with all the results being negative.
For more information on TWRA’s Importation ban please, click here.
For more information on CWD, click here.
From Region I, Amy Spencer, Madison County Wildlife Officer