Senate Energy, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee hears expert testimony on Chronic Wasting Disease in Tennessee’s Deer Population

The Senate Energy, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee heard expert testimony this week from wildlife veterinarian, Dr. Dan Grove, and members of the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) regarding the effects of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) on Tennessee’s deer population.   This disease was first discovered in Colorado and Wyoming around 1960. However, as the years have progressed so has the disease, and Tennessee was the 26th state to confirm its presence in December 2018.

CWD is a prion disease that affects deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer and moose. It may take over a year before an infected animal develops symptoms, which can include drastic weight loss (wasting), stumbling, listlessness and other neurologic symptoms. CWD is fatal to animals of all ages and there are no effective treatments or vaccines.  Some Western U.S. states, where the disease is more prevalent, have experienced a 40 percent decrease in their deer populations.

There are currently 182 CWD cases discovered on over 1.4 million acres of land in Hardeman and Fayette Counties, and one case in Madison County.  TWRA is currently enacting Pre-CWD plans and rules including increased harvesting allotments in effected areas.  Approximately 5,000 samples were tested in Tennessee last year and carcass transportation restrictions have been implemented. 

Since this is a slowly progressive disease, measuring the success of prevention and management efforts will take up to 5 to 10 years.  Chuck Yoest, CWD coordinator, explained that disease management is a “huge undertaking” for the Wildlife Agency that will be a long journey before realizing the results. “The Wildlife Agency can’t best manage the disease alone; it’s going to have to be in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, hunters, land owners, business owners, agriculture and conservation partners, and the General Assembly,” he said.

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