CWD, Turkey Study Updates Given At October TFWC Meeting

Friday, October 25, 2019
Updates on chronic wasting disease (CWD) and an ongoing turkey research project were given at the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission one-day October meeting held at Lone Oaks Farm, which is administered by UT Extension, a unit of the University of Tennessee Institute Of Agriculture.

Chuck Yoest, CWD coordinator, provided an update beginning with a reminder of Crockett and Gibson counties now being classified as CWD high-risk counties.  As a result of the declaration, wildlife feeding and carcass expiration restrictions now apply there.
However, the agency recommends the counties remain in Unit L. 

Mr. Yoest said 17 CWD-positive deer have been detected during the 2019-20 deer season thus far, and the combined total, including those from the 2018-19, is 203.  Additional CWD public meetings are planned for Crockett for Gibson counties on Nov. 7 and 14, respectively.  

Mr. Yoest concluded the update by informing the commission of a policy change by privately-owned landfills operators in southwest Tennessee resulting in no deer being accepted at these facilities. Although TWRA does not have authority or legal responsibility for waste disposal, the agency, assisted by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and the University of Tennessee Extension have developed plans to honor stakeholder requests for assistance on this issue and ensure best management of CWD.  

David Buehler, professor from UT Knoxville, was present to give an update on the turkey research project. The project, concentrating on southern Middle Tennessee, has reached the half-way point of the 5-year study. Final analyses will not be completed until all of the data is received. Survival, reproduction, and hunter harvest varies annually. The multiple years of data will help provide a complete picture.

The preliminary report indicates turkey populations in the area are declining because of poor productivity. Experimental habitat management is being implemented to address limitations in nest success and brood survival. Hunters are very concerned about the status of turkey hunting and are willing to consider regulatory changes, according to surveys. Turkeys are being exposed to a variety of diseases but there is little evidence that these diseases are limiting populations

Chris Ogle and Austin Bibb were introduced as the TWRA Wildlife Biologist of the Year and Wildlife Technician of the Year, respectively. Mr. Ogle serves as a wildlife manager in the Biodiversity program in TWRA Region IV. Mr. Bibb serves on the staff at the Lower Mississippi River Complex, stationed at Shelby Forest Wildlife Management Area.

The TWRA’s CWD Response team has received the Wildlife and Forestry Division’s inaugural award for “Team of the Year” for its teamwork since to the confirmation of chronic wasting disease in Tennessee. Chief Joe Benedict said the award was “In recognition of superior teamwork in responding to the discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease in Tennessee through positive attitude, careful planning, integrating a statewide perspective, and commitment to clear, proactive and open communication.”

Middle and West Tennessee radio/television host Hugh McNaughten passed away last month. His outdoors advocacy and contribution to the tradition of hunting and fishing were recognized at the meeting with atribute video. He also had been an instructor in TWRA’s Hunter Education program since 1995.

The commission does not have a scheduled November meeting. The TFWC will next meet Dec. 12-13 in Gatlinburg.

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