CWD in Tennessee
With Chronic Wasting Disease occurring in Tennessee, the TWRA has established the goal of keeping CWD from spreading, keeping the number of diseased deer in the affected area to a minimum, and reducing disease rates where possible. To achieve that goal, the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission established a CWD (chronic wasting disease) Unit with specific regulations to achieve our goals that are science-based and data-driven
In the fall of 2018, TWRA began an enhanced CWD Surveillance Program. The goal of the program was to build on past agency efforts to test an appropriate number of deer throughout the state to detect CWD if it were to be present.
On December 14, 2019, TWRA was informed by its CWD diagnostic laboratory 10 hunter-harvested deer from Hardeman and Fayette Counties were suspect for CWD. These deer had been sampled in November during the opening weekend of the deer gun season. Once the CWD-suspect deer were confirmed positive, TWRA’s CWD Response Plan was enacted and the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission established what is now known as Unit CWD, extended the deer season in the affected area to get more deer sampled, and instituted deer carcass exportation and wildlife feeding restrictions to help prevent disease spread.
Thanks to the cooperation of hunters and the actions of the Commission, the extended season in January 2019 was a very successful data-gathering effort and TWRA was able to learn a lot about the frequency and distribution of CWD in the affected area. With the aid of hunters, processors, and taxidermists TWRA was able to test over 3,100 deer. Of these deer, 185 deer were confirmed positive for CWD, with 107 confirmations coming from Fayette County, 77 from Hardeman County, and one from Madison County. More is needed to be learned during the 2019-2020 deer season to more fully understand the frequency and distribution of CWD. We truly appreciate all the hunter cooperation and feedback received from the extended season and will continue to depend on hunters’ cooperation for gathering data about CWD.
Through the CWD response efforts, TWRA learned, in addition to Fayette and Hardeman, CWD is present in Madison County bringing the total of CWD-positive counties to three. It was also determined, in accordance with TWRA’s CWD Management Plan; another 5 southwestern counties are affected since CWD was detected within 10 miles of their borders. These five counties include Chester, Haywood, McNairy, Shelby and Tipton Counties and are considered high-risk for CWD. Unit CWD now consists of all eight counties mentioned and the deer bag limits and seasons there are tailored to empower hunters to increase the deer harvest to keep the number of diseased deer in the affected area to a minimum, reduce disease rates where possible, and keep CWD from spreading.
There is no one easy solution to the challenge of CWD management. Various management techniques have been attempted in other states throughout the years with highly variable results. Best management requires long-term sustained effort using the latest science and the continued support and participation by hunters and other deer management stakeholders. Impacts of actions taken may not be readily apparent for years, maybe even decades, due to the nature of the disease; therefore it is difficult to predict exactly what the future holds. If we look to the lessons learned in some other states, it could be grim as CWD has resulted in significant population declines in mule deer in the western U.S. and there has been a shift in age structures of populations having had the disease for decades. CWD is not an impossible situation though. Despite the permanence of the disease where it exists, with the support of the affected stakeholders, it can be managed and deer hunting can still be enjoyed. Considering the high-quality deer habitat in the Unit CWD, TWRA’s commitment to the best management of CWD, and the responsiveness of hunters thus far, together we can ensure the best management of CWD in Tennessee. The easiest ways for you to help out is to hunt Unit CWD and follow the disease management regulations and the best management practices for deer carcass disposal and transport included on this webpage.
To help keep CWD in Tennessee deer to a minimum, landowners in Unit CWD can . . . .
- Encourage hunters to harvest their bag limit
- Allow more hunting on your land
- Discontinue the use of mineral licks and feeding
- Cover old mineral sites with six (6) inches of topsoil/gravel
- Avoid planting small food plots
- Test deer harvested on your land for CWD.
Feeding sites increase contact between deer thereby increasing the likelihood of the spread of CWD. So, by not feeding wildlife, you are helping prevent the spread of CWD.
Feeding wildlife is prohibited in Unit CWD. You may not place grain, salt products, minerals, or other consumable natural and manufactured products with very few exceptions. The ban does not apply to feed placed within 100 feet of a residence such as bird feeders, feed placed in a manner not accessible to deer, or feed and minerals as the result of normal agricultural practices. If you have feed placed, you must remove the feed or make it inaccessible. Food plots are still legal in Unit CWD.