NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Environmental threats in Tennessee can be defined by a broad spectrum ranging from invasive species, to deadly diseases, to air and water pollutions. News 2 has been digging deeper into the threats and the impact on Tennessee’s habitats.
Diseases threatening wildlife
- Avian Influenza: Virus that impacts bird populations. Some signs including sneezing, coughing, ruffled feathers and high numbers of death. It’s mostly found in wild birds but can also spread quickly among poultry, like chickens and turkeys. A highly pathogenic avian influenza has been detected in North America in 2022, including at a poultry plant in Kentucky near the Tennessee border.
- Canine Distemper: A highly contagious disease that spreads among carnivores, including raccoons, foxes, weasels, skunks and gray wolves. It’s related to rubeola (red measles) and there’s no threat to humans. It occurs most often in raccoons.
- Chronic Wasting Disease: CWD is a nervous system disease in white-tailed deer, elk and other cervids. It is a progressive disease that leads to fatality. CWD has been found in more than a dozen counties in Tennessee so far in 2022. According to the CDC, there have been no reported human infections of CWD.
- Rabies: Hydrophobia is a fatal disease that can affect all mammals (including humans). It’s a nervous system disease that can cause inflammation of the brain. It’s most commonly found in bats, raccoons, and skunks.
- RHDV2: Rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus type 2 has a high infection and mortality rate. It’s normally spread in wild rabbits, but there have been confirmed cases of RHDV2 in domestic rabbits in Tennessee.
Invasive aquatic species
- Invasive Carp: There are four species of Invasive Carp in Tennessee that can have a negative impact on fish and aquatic life. TWRA has continued efforts to reduce the presence of Silver Carp, Bighead Carp, Black Carp and Grass Carp in Tennessee waterways.
- Whirling Disease: A disease caused by a parasite that affects trout and salmon. It causes deformities that can impact a fish’s ability to swim and therefore eat, which can lead to death.
- Didymosphenia Geminata: Didymo is an algae that has only been found in five rivers in Tennessee. But, it still poses a threat because it can grow and smother suitable habitats that fish depend on.
- Zebra Mussel: Considered an aquatic nuisance, these filter feeders can have extreme economic impact. TWRA said, the invasive species can mess up water intakes, suffocate native mussels and use up resources of native aquatic life as well as damage boats and other recreational equipment. Plus, their sharp shells can injure swimmers.