Chronic Wasting Disease, the deadly, highly-contagious disease that can decimate deer populations, continues to creep close to Middle Tennessee.
A CWD-infected deer has been diagnosed in Henry County, just across the Tennessee River which is considered the boundary between West and Middle Tennessee.
CWD had been found in several West Tennessee counties, 11 of which are designated a “CWD Unit” by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. The TWRA employs special management practices in the unit to try to contain the spread of the disease.
The infected deer found in Henry County indicates that CWD continues to spread despite the TWRA’s efforts.
CWD is not harmful to humans, livestock or other wildlife, but is fatal to cervids such as deer, elk and moose. The neurological disease is transmitted through contact, and there is no known cure. Wildlife biologists have termed CWD the most serious threat in the history of Tennessee deer management.
The infected deer recently found in Henry County was a 3.5-year-old doe that was thin and exhibiting strange behavior – symptoms of CWD. Multiple tests by biologists confirmed the presence of the disease.
As a result of the finding, the TWRA has imposed restrictions on carcass transportation, feeding and mineral placement in Henry and adjacent Weakley County.
“This is unfortunate news,” said Stephanie Durno Karns, a TWRA wildlife specialist. “The message to hunters is to know the rules about transport and feeding, get your harvests tested, and report any sick deer you see via our website.”
The Agency urges deer hunters to keep hunting and harvest as many deer as possible in the CWD-impacted counties. However, many hunters are reluctant to harvest a potentially-diseased deer, or go through the hassle of having a kill tested.
With no known cure for CWD, wildlife biologists can only try to contain the disease to areas in which it exists. However, that is almost impossible, because deer roam widely – as far as five miles during mating season.
The first CWD cases were discovered decades ago in Western states, then in Northern areas. The disease gradually spread south, drawing closer and closer to Tennessee. Four years ago it appeared in one West Tennessee county, then spread to others, and continues to draw closer toward the Midstate.
Throughout last season harvested deer were checked for CWD at several sites in Middle Tennessee, including Cedars of Lebanon State Park, and no infected animals were found.
As part of its effort to contain the spread of CWD, the Agency discourages the use of deer feeders by hunters and wildlife watchers, as the disease can be transmitted by saliva and other bodily fluids. One diseased deer can infect an entire herd.
At its next meeting, the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider what, if any, additional CWD-related regulations to impose for the upcoming deer season.
Information about the disease can be found at www.CWDinTennessee.com.