Why is a deer disease bad news for all wildlife?
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been found in Tennessee.
The always fatal disease has been slowly marching across the U.S., infecting cervids such as deer and elk. In December, it was detected here for the first time, making Tennessee the 26th state that now has to wrestle with its fallout.
CWD is a highly-contagious neurological disease.
It causes brain degeneration, extreme weight loss, abnormal behavior, and eventually death. Because there is no cure and the disease is easily transmitted—even through contaminated soil—a CWD-positive area today is likely to always be CWD-positive.
That’s bad for Tennessee’s deer and elk. But those aren’t the only species CWD will impact.
Currently, hunters and anglers are the single largest source of funds for wildlife management in Tennessee. And most hunters hunt deer. But CWD makes deer hunting less attractive because venison that tests positive is not recommended for human consumption. At the same time, it will reduce populations and make transportation and disposal more difficult.
So, if CWD reduces hunting opportunities, fewer licenses and supplies will be sold, greatly decreasing conservation funds generated from those purchases.
Tennessee’s wildlife—which is already feeling pressure from habitat loss, invasive species, and more—is now at risk of losing the limited funding that has been safeguarding it for future generations.
Wildlife needs you more than ever before.
If you are a deer hunter, take every step possible to contain CWD. Follow all regulations about transporting and preparing your harvest. And share information with your fellow hunters—one bad actor could spoil hunting for an entire county.
Together, we can help to control CWD’s spread.
Whether you hunt or not, wildlife needs you to invest in conservation so they thrive long into the future.
Just as more resources are needed to go toward containing CWD, conservation funding could fall. Other species will lose out unless there are people and organizations watching over conservation in our state every day.
With your help, Tennessee Wildlife Federation will continue to be in the state capitol and in the field every day fighting for our state’s wildlife, water, and great outdoors.
What is Chronic Wasting Disease?
- CWD infects deer, elk, and other cervids.
- CWD is caused by a misfolded protein commonly referred to as a prion—not a virus or bacteria—that is easily transmitted by direct contact, feces, saliva, carcass parts, and contaminated environments, such as soil.
- The disease is 100% fatal and has no cure.
- There is no evidence it can be transmitted to humans or domestic livestock.
- Hunters are recommended to have deer tested and confirmed as CWD-negative before consuming.
- An infected deer can be infected for months to years with no outward signs.
- Once CWD is introduced to an area, it can’t be eliminated—only controlled.
Feature photo by Ronald Manley