CWD in Deer Continues to Spread, Tennessee County Becomes 9th in State to Report Case

by Courtney Blackann

Those ready for deer season in Tennessee must be looking alive after recent news. After a bout of sick deer in nine counties, officials are warning residents to be cautious as they head out to hunt. It’s not pretty.

Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, is taking over several counties in Tennessee. It’s a fatal disease which affects the nervous system. So far, officials have found its presence in deer in Chester, Fayette, Hardeman, Haywood, Lauderdale, Madison, Shelby and Tipton counties, and within 10 miles of five other counties.

Now, Henry County joins that list. The Johnson City Press reports that a 3-year-old doe was spotted behaving strangely. After testing, local authorities confirmed the deer had CWD.

“(CWD) is a fatal, neurological illness occurring in North American cervids (members of the deer family), including white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose,” according to the U.S. Department of the Interior website. “Since its discovery in 1967, CWD has spread geographically and increased in prevalence locally. CWD is contagious; it can be transmitted freely within and among cervid populations. No treatments or vaccines are currently available.”

Additionally, deer with the illness act as if they are being overly thirsty, listless, wandering and drooling. Further, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency also most recently discovered a young deer with symptoms. While the agency didn’t specify a cause, they recommend that humans should not consume infected deer meat.

“CWD is transmitted directly through animal-to-animal contact, and indirectly through contact with objects or environment contaminated with infectious material (including saliva, urine, feces, and carcasses of CWD-infected animals),” the USDI site also states.

However, humans with CWD should not be an issue, the agency said.

Deer Caught Eating Unusual Things

Speaking of strange deer habits, the animals can be a bit scrappy in dire times. This includes eating a few unusual things.

Further, while natural herbivores, deer have been known be survive in some harsh situations in which eating options were limited. This includes various kinds of meat – including human remains.

“Deer eat a lot of unusual things,” National Deer Association biologist Kip Adams told Field and Stream. “For example, there are accounts of deer eating spent shell casings at shooting ranges. There are other accounts of them eating bones, and other accounts of them eating eggs and recently hatched chicks. Most of these instances are likely nutritionally related — protein, energy, minerals— but some may be experimental.”

Recent videos showed the wild animals gnawing on some very strange pieces of bone and meat. It’s a baffling sight, though not super unusual, according to scientists. Additionally, the salt and calcium minerals found in meat are what deer go after in times where they may be malnourished.

Though it’s a bit wild, the act is not typical – and shouldn’t alarm anyone outside of it being a bit unusual.