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Wildlife commission increases deer importation restriction

The Tennessee Fish & Wildlife Commission has tightened the restrictions on hunters who travel out-of-state and return to Tennessee with harvested deer, elk, moose or caribou. (Image courtesy TWRA)

The Tennessee Fish & Wildlife Commission has increased restrictions of importation of deer, elk, moose, and caribou carcasses to try and further protect Tennessee from Chronic Wasting Disease.

An importation restriction that once applied only to outside states where CWD had already been identified now applies to EVERY U.S. state and Canada. Tennessee hunters who travel out of state to hunt deer, elk, moose or caribou can only bring their harvested animals back home if they have been butchered or prepared based upon strict criteria (outlined here).

CWD is a deadly and contagious neurological disorder that can impact populations of deer, elk, and other animals classified as members of the deer family known as cervids. CWD has never been transferred to humans and it has yet to be identified in Tennessee's deer population. While many say it will eventually find its way here, biologists want to slow or prevent its spread to Tennessee. It has been discovered in 25 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. Mississippi became the latest state to confirm CWD two weeks ago.

TWRA however, is formulating a plan on how to address CWD-infected deer when they do make their way to the state. A Putnam County taxidermist was charged under the existing importation restriction just a few weeks ago. Lt. Col. Taylor told commissioners that there was a total of 32 deer that law enforcement officers confiscated in 2017 that had to be dealt with. The animals have to be held in frozen storage as evidence until the cases are heard in court.

At the January meeting, the TFWC asked the TWRA Law Enforcement Division to research the cost of equipment needed to deal with infected deer. At the most recent February meeting Lt. Col. Cape Taylor, TWRA's Asst. Chief of Law Enforcement, presented preliminary costs of freezers and incinerators. He said the cost of four 12x12 freezers (one per TWRA region) would be approximately $100,000. The cost of two incinerators statewide would be approximately $120,000. Commissioners had questions about alternatives and requested additional information. No decision was made on the purchase of freezers or incinerators.


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