After last week’s meeting hosted by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency at the Henry County Fairgrounds, hunters and wildlife enthusiasts are better informed about the ramifications of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in the state’s herd but most in the crowd now find themselves in a deer dilemma.

Many in attendance gained a better understanding and perception of what this mysterious disease is about.

Said one hunter at the conclusion of the presentation — “we’re sick but the doctor can’t do anything for us!”

A crowd of some 125 people attended, soaking up information presented by Dan Grove, a veterinarian and wildlife health specialist working with both TWRA and the UT Extension Service. Also presenting was Jeremy Dennison, CWD field coordinator with the TWRA.

If those attending came to the event hoping to hear some good news of progress or cures from the front lines of the war on CWD they left disappointed. What they learned is that CWD is a formidable opponent in the future of deer hunting here in Tennessee and Henry County.

Grove provided a pictorial presentation supported by graphs and several years of data giving attendees some history of the disease that first surfaced in western states in the 1960s but was first discovered in Tennessee in 2018.

In summary, Grove says:

• CWD is a significant threat to the state’s white-tail deer herd.

• The TWRA has the goal of keeping CWD from spreading and keeping the number of diseased deer in areas to a minimum and reducing disease rates where possible.

• Biologists want to increase the harvest in affected counties while the agency increases its sampling as it attempts to better understand the disease.

• Bucks are twice more likely than does to have CWD and older bucks are three times more likely to have it than younger ones.

• CWD isn’t known to affect cattle, horses, sheep or goats.

• Long-term effects on the state’s herd are unknown.

• CWD is 100% fatal. Once deer have it they are unable to breed and die within 18 months. In the early stages, cosmetic signs are thin hair, drooling, walking in circles and allowing humans to approach them.

• It has never been known to infect humans.

• It’s a prion type disease brought on by abnormal, pathogenic agents that throw off the balance of proteins especially in the brain of deer, lymphatic system, etc.

• CWD management is not a one-man band. It is a partnership between the TWRA, partners, hunters, land owners and you. Your engagement and support is needed. Please, harvest more deer in Unit CWD. Abide by carcass transportation and feeding restrictions in CWD-positive and high-risk counties.

Meanwhile, there’s a lot of uncertainty among the ranks of hunters as to the future of deer hunting not only here in Henry County but across the state.

There are some unknowns as to how to address and stop CWD.

There are some knowns too, and that information is quite disturbing.

Henry County has been one of the top counties in the state in harvest numbers for decades. From leases to hunters by landowners and farmers to the tourism generated by legions of hunters who travel here for the excellent deer hunting opportunities, there’s insecurity as to what lies ahead.

Same goes for the sporting goods industry both locally and statewide. Meanwhile, hunters can help their own cause by following TWRA guidelines.

For additional information and more details of CWD, the agency has established a website: CWDinTennessee.com that will provide specifics of transportation and the overall scenario of the situation at hand.

Stay tuned as the future has a lot of chapters ahead that haven’t been written on this saga. An uncertain future awaits deer hunting wherever this ugly disease shows up.

STEVE McCADAMS is The Post-Intelligencer’s outdoors writer. His email address is stevemc@charter.net.

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