New Tennessee hunting regulations are now in place to combat the spread of a fatal neurological disorder that affects members of the deer family and is 100 percent fatal.
Any deer, elk or moose harvested outside the state must have its meat removed from the bone before being brought into Tennessee as state wildlife officials attempt to combat Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD. The regulations were put in place by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency for the newly begun hunting season.
An additional regulation that will ban the use of natural deer urine in Tennessee will go into effect for the 2019 hunting season.
"It's going to be an inconvenience to hunters, but Tennessee isn't the only state doing this," TWRA big game biologist Ben Layton said. "Regulations have been put in place in other states to slow down the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease."
States are scrambling to prevent the spread of the infectious disease. CWD has been reported in at least 25 states and Canada, and while it has not been found in Tennessee, once here, it could decimate the deer population.
The disease causes drastic weight loss, stumbling, listlessness and other neurological symptoms before eventual death. There is no treatment or vaccine to cure it. Scientists believe the disease is still contagious long after an infected animal is dead. Some states, such as Wisconsin, have seen entire herds wiped out due to the highly infectious disease.
The new rules extend TWRA's carcass import restrictions to every U.S. state and Canada. Previously, the rule only included import restrictions from states where chronic wasting was already documented.
The amended rules also require antlers brought into the state to have cleaned skulls. Teeth must be cleaned, and taxidermy and antler products must be finished.
"Many of the management practices that have made our deer and elk programs successful will have to be reversed as we try to prevent CWD from spreading," said Chuck Yoest, an assistant chief in TWRA's Wildlife Division. "Much of the overall agency's focus will change to CWD, taking away from other important wildlife programs."
The disease is not known to affect humans but the CDC mentions students who found the disease in mice and monkeys, which carry similar genes to humans.
Beginning in 2019, the use of natural deer urine will be banned. The substance is commonly used by hunters to mask their scent. The use of synthetic deer urine still will be allowed.
The year-long delay in the new regulation is to allow time for retailers to prepare for the change.
"I am very much a fan of the regulation," said Donnie Covey, the local member of the TWRA Foundation board. "I would almost say it needs to be enforced heavier. [Chronic wasting] could ultimately cause a total demise to the deer herd."