MORRISTOWN—The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will be collecting deer biological data on the opening day of muzzleloader season, Nov. 5 and the opening day of the rifle season, Nov. 19 at various locations across East Tennessee. Data to be collected will include deer age estimates, antler measurements, and Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) surveillance samples at select locations.
With the advent of Internet checking and the “TWRA On The Go” mobile device application, fewer hunters are physically bringing deer to the traditional check stations. These newer methods for big game checking has made the process easier for hunters, but more difficult for TWRA to collect much needed data from harvested animals.
The data collected is important in aiding TWRA’s deer management decisions across the state. Many times, deer management recommendations and decisions are made using data collected from hunters and it is especially important when any buck restrictions are being considered. This also provides the opportunity to test deer for the presence of a neurological disease known as CWD, which is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy known to infect white-tailed deer, mule deer, and Rocky Mountain elk. The disease attacks the central nervous system and causes small holes to form in the brains of infected animals and is always fatal. While CWD is similar to scrapie and mad cow disease in cattle, there is no evidence that humans can contract the disease by coming into contact with infected animals or by consuming the meat from infected animals. However, TWRA still recommends that hunters take precautions to limit risks, including the use of latex gloves when field dressing deer.
Fortunately, CWD has not been detected in Tennessee but TWRA is increasing its monitoring program to ensure that the disease has not been introduced into the state. Historically, TWRA has targeted 200 deer per year for sampling but intends to collect 1,500 samples this year. To date, 80 free-ranging elk and 9,394 free-ranging deer have been tested for the disease in the state with all the results coming back negative.
Hunters are also reminded of the restriction that bans the importation of deer, moose, and elk carcasses from any state not bordering Tennessee that has found a positive case of CWD. It also includes states bordering Tennessee if that state has a CWD-positive county within 150 miles of Tennessee’s border. The restriction prohibits deer carcasses being brought into Tennessee from the CWD-positive states unless it is deboned meat, antlers, antlers attached to a clean skull, a clean skull (no meat or tissue), cleaned teeth, finished taxidermy products, or hides and tanned products. A list of states and Canadian provinces that are included in the restriction can be found at http://www.tn.gov/twra/article/cwd-carcass-importation-ban.