KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Tennesse Wildlife Resources Agency is updating chronic wasting disease testing procedures for wild deer and elk in Tennessee to ensure CWD does not spread from West Tennessee to the rest of the state.

At this time, the agency gets the majority of their samples from hunters through submission of their samples through the processor or taxidermist. However, CWD Field Coordinator Jeremy Dennison says more samples are needed. To gain a greater idea of the spread of CWD, TWRA is planning to go out and sample deer in East Tennessee following the recent positive results in North Carolina and Virginia.

“We need more [samples] to ensure we have the data that we need for management decisions or we can go out and get more through adjustments to our sampling numbers. We’re planning to do just that in East Tennessee because of recent positive results in North Carolina and Virginia. This will help us ensure that we stay ahead of the spread of CWD which currently is contained in West Tennessee,” said Dennison.

To help incentivize hunters to submit their samples, the TWRA is offering several vouchers for hunters who kill a CWD-positive deer. Hunters who receive a CWD-positive test result for a harvested dear will receive a voucher redeemable for $75 of processing fees. In addition, hunters who will receive a positive test result for a buck will automatically earn a replacement buck to go out and get another one. Those who harvest two or more positive deer will earn an annual sportsman license.

Finally, hunters in the CWD unit can also earn a buck and harvest an extra buck for every antlerless deer they harvest.

“Help us stop the spread of CWD. Go hunting, submit your sample, get your results and do your part to support the health of Tennessee’s deer,” said Garrett Clevinger, TWRA Deer Coordinator.

The TWRA is also going to start providing results to hunters in three different categories; positive, suspect not confirmed, and not detected.

“Keep in mind the diagnostic tests we use are not a food safety test. But based on CDC guidance hunters should not consume meat from a known positive animal and should use caution when deciding whether to consume meat from a suspect not confirmed deer,” said Dr. Dan Grove, UT Extension & TWRA Wildlife Veterinarian.

CWD was first identified in 2018 in Tennessee. Since then the disease has been found in wild white-tailed deer in 15 counties: Chester, Crockett, Dyer, Fayette, Gibson, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, Henry, Lauderdale, Madison, McNairy, Shelby, Tipton, and Weakley. Following the 2021-2022 deer hunting season, Fayette County had the highest county-wide prevalence of CWD at 17.8% and Hardeman county had the next highest at 11.8%.

The TWRA is also asking people to report sick or dead deer of unknown causes. They ask that If you have seen a deer that appears abnormally thin, exhibiting strange behavior, or that has other anomalies that suggest the deer may be sick or diseased, to submit a report. To find out more about this program, click here.

According to the CDC, CWD damages portions of the brain and typically causes progressive loss of body condition, behavioral changes, excessive salivation and death. CWD stands for Chronic Wasting Disease and it is found in some deer, elk and moose populations. At this time, the CDC says there have been no reported infections in humans. To find out more about CWD in Tennessee, click here.