The governing body of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency voted recently to amend a rule regarding import restrictions on deer, elk, moose, and caribou carcasses due to increasing concerns about the potential impact of chronic wasting disease (CWD),

The amended rule will now be sent from the 13-member Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission to the State Attorney General’s Office for review.

Ultimately the amendment is intended to make every U.S. state outside of Tennessee and all Canadian provinces subject to TWRA’s carcass import restrictions. 

Currently the rule only includes import restrictions on states where CWD has been documented. The amendment would change the rule to include all states, regardless of CWD status.

Right now 25 states and two Canadian provinces have documented chronic wasting disease.

“This change will make our import restriction rule easy to understand,” explained Chuck Yoest, an assistant chief in TWRA’s Wildlife Division. “No matter where a hunter travels outside of Tennessee, import restrictions must be followed. “It also helps strengthen our message about how serious this disease is.”

CWD is a contagious and deadly neurological disorder that affects members of the deer family known scientifically as cervids. It is transmitted through animal-to-animal contact, animal contact with a contaminated environment, and with contaminated feed or water sources.  

 Prions are responsible for CWD transmission, not a bacteria or a virus.  Prions are misfolded or abnormal proteins found throughout a diseased animal’s body, but are concentrated in an animal’s eyes, brain, tonsils, spleen and lymph nodes.

White-tailed deer are common in Tennessee, while a small population of elk can be found in the eastern portion of the state.  Import restrictions have been designed to protect these native herds.

“We have hunters who often return from trips with an elk, deer, moose, or even caribou carcass,” noted Yoest.  “We don’t want hunters to unintentionally introduce CWD to Tennessee through infected tissues.”

While CWD is considered 100 percent fatal once contracted, it is not known to harm humans or livestock. Nonetheless, wildlife agencies across the country are working to inform the public about CWD and its deadly results on cervids and possible impacts to economies.

Many states that have documented CWD are also attempting to contain it, which is a time consuming and costly task.

Mississippi recently discovered CWD, while Arkansas documented its first case two years ago. Mississippi is just beginning the expensive task of containment, while Arkansas has spent approximately $2.5 million implementing its CWD management plan.

“We don’t want to go down that road,” said Yoest.  “We also have a CWD plan ready for use, but it implementing it will mean changing the way we manage our deer and elk herds and be very expensive.

“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. Much of the overall Agency’s focus will change to CWD, taking away from other important wildlife programs.”

More information about CWD, including videos that explain how to properly dress an animals before transporting it, can be found on TWRA’s website at  The CWD page can be found under the “Hunting” menu at the top of the website’s homepage