The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission heard a preliminary 2020-21 deer harvest, a chronic wasting disease (CWD) report, and status of the lake sturgeon restoration project during its first meeting of the year which concluded Friday.
The statewide deer harvest currently stands at 159,935, a 20 percent increase from the 2019-20 season. The total is a 6 percent increase (9,534) from the average of five previous seasons. However, it is a 5 percent decrease from the 2015-16 season.
In Unit CWD in southwestern Tennessee, the harvest a 35 percent increase to 19,843 from the 2019-20 season. In the 11 counties comprising Unit season, it is an 8 percent increase over the past five years. It is an 8 percent decrease from 2015.
During the 2020-21 season, there have been 18,616 deer sampled with 556 positives and 2,319 tests pending. The current positives are an increase of 64 from 2019-20 and bring the total to a 3-year total of 1,234.
The 2020-21 Earn-a-Buck and Replacement Buck program in Unit CWD saw less than 2,100 total bucks earned. Slightly fewer than 1,600 persons earned at least one buck and there were 320 replacement bucks.
A brief discussion was held on the next steps the TWRA could take using deer modeling to predict deer movement and behavior. In the coming weeks, the Agency will determine how to best allocate resources to continue CWD management in West Tennessee.
Frank Fiss, TWRA Fisheries Division provided an update on a long-term recovery project for native lake sturgeon. The project started in 1998 with the goal to establish a self-sustaining population. TWRA, along with multiple state, federal, and non-governmental partners has released more than 280,000 lake sturgeon in these rivers.
Biologists survey populations annually to monitor the survival and growth of the stocked fish. TWRA asks anglers to report their catch of lake sturgeon, and all must be released immediately. TWRA has issued 662 certificates to thank anglers for reporting their catch. Lake sturgeon can grow up to 8-feet long, weigh 300 pounds, and live 150 years.
The commission was also informed about White-nose Syndrome (WNS) in Tennessee. The disease has had an adverse effect on the bat population. Josh Campbell, Region II Biodiversity coordinator, reported WNS has been documented in 12 of the 16 species in the state.
There are more than 11,000 documented caves located in 77 of the state’s counties. There are 143 positive or suspect sites with 57 counties designated positive or suspect. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides a WNS grant opportunity. The funds are used for a variety of work conducted by the TWRA annually.
An amendment to change the start of the fall raptor taking season from Sept. 15 to Aug. 15 each year was approved. It was changed to Aug. 15 in 2012. It was noticed that it was inadvertently changed to Sept.15 during the last revision in 2018. This amendment corrects the error.
Commissioner Tony Sanders of Hixson was recognized for his 25 years of service as a Hunter Education instructor. Ed Carter, who retired as TWRA executive director in May, was present to receive a Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) resolution in recognition of his many contributions.
The TFWC’s next meeting is Feb. 18-19 in Franklin at the Marriott of Cool Springs. The TFWC’s 20201-22 officers will be elected at the meeting.