The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission heard updates on chronic wasting disease (CWD), Tennessee’s In Need of Management, Threatened, and Endangered Wildlife Listing, boating statistics, and budget process during its July meeting.
The two-day session concluded Friday and was held at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s Region II Ray Bell Building.
Chuck Yoest, assistant chief of the Wildlife and Forestry Division, provided a follow-up presentation to previous presentations on CWD.
Mr. Yoest shared that 25 states now have CWD, but, thankfully, after many years of ongoing sampling by TWRA, the disease is still not known to exist in Tennessee. While CWD is not known to be present in Tennessee, the potential threat it poses to deer and elk populations and to hunting, is momentous.
CWD is passed through the environment to deer and elk, and by direct contact with bodily fluids of positive animals. There are no known cases of humans contracting CWD.
Mr. Yoest informed the commission on risk factors for spreading CWD including: captive deer and elk, infected, hunter-killed carcasses being transported into Tennessee by out-of-state hunters, and the potential of hunters accidentally introducing CWD through the usage of deer urine-based lures commonly used for hunting. Also, regarding these risk factors, Yoest shared regulatory actions taken in other states which, if adopted by the commission, may reduce the likelihood of the disease reaching Tennessee.
Pandy English, the acting chief of TWRA’s Biodiversity Division, made a presentation to the commission. The TWRA is updating its state list of In Need of Management, Threatened, and Endangered Species. She explained each of these categories to the commission.
In Need of Management species are those animals that need research conducted to determine their rareness. Threatened species are those animals in jeopardy of becoming endangered. Endangered refers to species that may become extinct or extirpated from the state. Wildlife biologists from universities, non-government organizations, zoos and TWRA have compiled the list using best available science, expert opinion and the federal list of endangered species,
The list includes 219 species (96 state endangered, 39 state threatened and 84 in need of management species). The purpose of this list is to guide the work of nongame biologists across the state. It prioritizes the species which need the most management. The ultimate goal is to remove Tennessee species from the federal Endangered Species List and to prevent further listing of Tennessee’s Species of Greatest Conservation Need.
Glenn Moates, assistant chief in the Boating and Law Enforcement Division, gave an update on boating statistics that included two of the major weekends for the boating season, Memorial Day and Independence Day. There were no boating-related fatalities during the holidays.
The Independence Day holiday was a five-day period that began on Friday, June 30 and continued through Tuesday, July 4. There were five accidents reported during the period, resulting in four injuries. TWRA officers made 20 boating under the influence (BUI) arrests during the period.
Thus far in 2017, there have been eight boating-related fatalities. Three of the fatalities were paddle craft incidents.
TWRA Executive Director Ed Carter explained the lengthy process involved in establishing the agency’s annual budget. The commission has six new members this year. The budget committee will hold a meeting at the Nashville Office conference room on Monday, Aug. 14 beginning at 7:30 a.m. The 2018-19 budget will be presented at the regular TFWC meeting Aug. 29-30 at the TWRA Region II Building.