Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) Tellico Lake Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and South Cherokee Manager, David Whitehead has retired after 33 years of service. Mr. Whitehead began his career with TWRA in 1984 as a Wildlife Officer in Cocke County. After two years he moved into a lands management position. Since that time he has been the Wildlife Manager on White’s Mill Refuge, Kyker Bottoms Refuge and the Tapoco Unit of the South Cherokee/Foothills WMA. Mr. Whitehead ended his career as the manager on Tellico Lake WMA and South Cherokee in Region 3. He was also the recipient of the 2016 TWRA biologist of the year award.
Over his career, Mr. Whitehead participated in the restoration of black bear, white-tailed deer, wild turkey, river otter and elk. In particular, his work with black bear populations has been exemplary. Whitehead was involved in relocating about 250 black bears, some of which were rehabilitated black bear cubs through his work with the Appalachian Bear Rescue (ABR) center. For over a decade, Mr. Whitehead was an active participant and contributor to the Southern Appalachian Black Bear Study Group. His input and leadership were integral to the growth of black bear populations in Tennessee. He established a good and honest rapport with the bear hunting culture in and around his area, which has been invaluable to management efforts.
Mr. Whitehead’s recent work included a partnership with the National Wild Turkey Federation on a $25,000 multi-year grant through which the development of over 400 acres of early successional habitat on the Bacon Bend and Chota Waterfowl Refuge area of Tellico Lake occurred. This year, he steered Region 3 efforts that ultimately resulted in the signing of a Good Neighbor Agreement with the U.S. Forest Service on North and South Cherokee WMAs. This agreement will facilitate management efforts on South Cherokee WMA in Region 3 for many years to come. Also this year, Mr. Whitehead partnered with five local National Wild Turkey Federation Chapters developing an agreement to raise $10,000 as a contribution to habitat management on the WMA. His vision included leveraging federal funds with this contribution, resulting in a $40,000 project to create and maintain linear and open habitats on the South Cherokee.
Mr. Whitehead has also been known throughout the area for his involvement with youth. He has led many programs, hunts and hikes and plans to continue his involvement through volunteerism. “David will be missed for many reasons. His organizational knowledge along with his enthusiasm for wildlife encouraged everyone at TWRA,” said Kirk Miles, Wildlife Program manager. Mr. Whitehead plans to work part time for ABR in retirement and continue his involvement with youth.