WASHINGTON COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – Hunters who hunt deer out-of-state will have to follow stricter carcass importation rules following a recent rule change by the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission.
In August, the TFWC unanimously approved a proposal that will impact how some deer, moose, and elk carcasses can be imported into the state. The commission is trying to prevent a highly contagious, fatal neurological disease called Chronic Wasting Disease from entering the state. CWD affects members of the deer family. Live deer can shed it through saliva, feces, and urine and it can also seep into the environment. “Chronic Wasting Disease is the single, greatest threat facing the future of white-tailed deer not only in Tennessee but in North America,” said Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Deer Management Program Leader James Kelly. “We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to prevent this devastating disease from entering the state.”
Under the new TWRA rule, any deer, moose, or elk carcasses harvested in a state that has tested positive for CWD must now be deboned and the skulls cleaned of meat and tissue before it will be allowed in the Volunteer state. The previous rule only applied to CWD-positive counties and in some cases, entire states. The new rule will impact carcasses harvested in 24 states, including Arkansas and Missouri. In May, the restrictions will expand to carcasses harvested in Virginia because two counties in the Commonwealth have tested positive for CWD.
Some local taxidermists are concerned the new rule will have a major impact on their businesses. “I’d say probably 50-60 percent of my business is out of state,” said Jason Roberts, owner of Strut and Rut Taxidermy in Washington County. He’s been a taxidermist for 15 years and regularly mounts deer from Pennsylvania, Illinois and Virginia. “[The new rule] is going to hurt me tremendously…financially.” Roberts also thinks it will be an inconvenience for hunters. He said he does not know any hunters who process carcasses before bringing them to a taxidermist. Roberts said, “They bring it to me to do it because that’s part of my job description.”
In a news release, TWRA said “the intent of the action taken by TFWC is to minimize the risk of CWD being introduced to Tennessee’s deer herd while also affording taxidermists and processers in Tennessee some time to make necessary preparations to minimize impacts to their business.”
Kelly said while CWD is not a threat to humans, there is no cure for it and it could impact the deer population if it is introduced to Tennessee. “[CWD disease] is a pretty slow progression. Recent research shows it’s at least 16 months before the animal starts to show any symptoms at all. It will look totally normal up until that point.” Kelly said symptoms include drooling and abnormal behavior. “If you magnify that to a population scale research has shown that population levels start to decline.”
Right now ,the TWRA rule will not impact deer, moose, or elk harvested in Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and North Carolina because none of those states have tested positive for CWD. Tennessee has tested nearly 10,000 free-ranging elk and deer for CWD over the last several years and all tests have come back negative.
Local taxidermists plan on meeting with TN state senators next week in Greene County to discuss concerns about the new rule.
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