NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A deadly disease found in deer is creeping closer to Middle Tennessee as the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency steps up efforts to contain Chronic Wasting Disease.

“It’s a fatal disease,” Barry Cross with the TWRA said.

According to Cross, the agency had a CWD Response Plan in place before the first confirmation of the disease in the state. Since the discovery of CWD in Tennessee in 2018, TWRA’s goal is to prevent it from spreading.

“This is a disease that’s not going to go away,” he said. 

CWD has been found in 16 counties in West Tennessee, with several others designated as “high risk.”

“What’s changed for them is the gun season started earlier, the antler deer harvest is three instead of two, and they have harvest incentives,” Cross explained.

CWD is a concern for deer hunters with gun season opening Saturday.

“For deer hunters, it’s one of those diseases that is a TSE or a spongiform, kind of along the lines of mad cow. So the recommendation is don’t eat the meat, and as hunters, that’s what we hunt for primarily,” Cross explained. 

The TWRA is among other state agencies partnering with the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance in promoting new online tools to help track, manage and document the spread of CWD in wildlife.

“For somebody whose planning a trip, let’s say to Iowa, Kansas, or Colorado, you can get on there and find information about Chronic Wasting Disease in one spot, and then you can find maps, you can find regulations, and restrictions about travel,” said Cross.

Additional efforts from the TWRA to keep the deadly disease at bay include increased surveillance and education. Cross said the agency will be focusing on Wayne County this weekend, which was elevated to a “high risk” county, meaning a positive sample was located within 10 miles of its border.

“That means travel restrictions are in place and that means they can no longer supplement feed down there,” Cross explained.

The agency put up newspaper advertisements, banners, yard signs and running message boards in the area hoping hunters can help in the fight posing the largest threat to Tennessee’s deer and elk populations. Cross said they need samples in Wayne, Lewis and Lawrence counties, asking hunters in Wayne County to utilize one of the many drop freezers they have in place for samples.

“We want the hunters to keep hunting. We want them to enjoy the sport. We want them to take it home and put it on the table and eat it, but you may harvest one here or there that’s positive and it’s just part of it now.”

Cross said hunters in Tennessee are encouraged to visit their website for more information on CWD rules, regulations and incentives.