JACKSON, Tenn. — Still a few months from the start of deer season, Tennessee authorities are wanting to get word to hunters of surrounding states, including Kentucky, of a major change in how deer meat can be processed or be brought to a taxidermist.
As of March, deer being taken across state lines for processing in the Volunteer State must be completely deboned. This was determined by a vote of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission and is an attempt to control chronic wasting disease.
“Our idea is prevention is key,” said Amy Snider-Spencer, information and education coordinator for the communications division of the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency’s Region 1 office in Jackson. Snider-Spencer also spent 18 years with the TWRA as a conservation officer and said chronic wasting disease is a major threat to deer populations.
“It is spreading rapidly, too. Last year, we had problems here in Tennessee with a case out of Missouri. However, what really made the commission want to take action came in about February when we learned that it was present in the area where Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas come together. The commissioners looked at that and decided that anything needing to be done to stop the spread needed to be done then.”
The rule is an amendment to an earlier ruling where the commissioners determined that this should only apply to meat coming into Tennessee and from states where CWD was documented. The amended ruling calls for all states to fall under this guideline.
Snider-Spencer said the TWRA is already distributing fliers throughout the state, particularly in areas where the state borders of other states; Tennessee’s border touches a total of eight other states. She also said an aggressive campaign is underway in the western part of the state to place billboards along Interstate 40, a nationwide highway that carries 30,000 to 40,000 through that part of Tennessee daily.
“That’s just between the Tennessee River (in Humphries County) all the way to Madison County (where Jackson is located). With that, you have thousands of hunters who use that road to head on trips to places like North Dakota and Minnesota and we desperately want these out-of-state hunters to know what is happening here. It would be a shame to have deer be seized,” she said.
North of the Tennessee border, Sgt. Scott Barrow, a longtime conservation officer with the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources’ station in Calloway County, said he is also trying to inform hunters he knows of the pending rule changes in Tennessee.
“I’m going to start circulating fliers in places frequented by hunters in our district,” said Barrow, whose base serves the entire Purchase Area of Kentucky, along with six other western Kentucky counties. “This is a game changer, and people need to know about it.
“The hunters in this district do a pretty good job of keeping up with things like this, and if they’re doing that in this case, we’ll probably have no issues. However, there are others that don’t find out about these things until much later, so we want everyone to be informed. That’s why we’re going to be putting fliers up in places like sporting goods stores and gun shops because that’s a good way to inform people.”
CWD, as it is known, is transmitted animal-to-animal, by animal contact with a contaminated environment or through contaminated feed or water sources. This not only applies to deer, though, as elk, moose and caribou from areas well north of Tennessee are also on the list.
“We have hunters who often return from trips with an elk, deer, moose, or even caribou carcass,” said Chuck Yoest, an assistant chief in TWRA’s Wildlife Division, in a release. “We don’t want hunters to unintentionally introduce CWD to Tennessee through infected tissues.”
The Tennessee provisions also specify that antlers or antlers attached to cleaned skill plates or cleaned skills with no meat or tissues attached can come into the state, along with cleaned teeth with no meat or tissue attached, finished antler products and taxidermy mounts, as well as tanned hides or other tanned products.
More information about CWD, including videos that explain how to properly dress an animal before transporting it, can be found on TWRA’s website at www.tn.gov/twra. The CWD page can be found under the “Hunting” menu at the top of the website’s homepage.