Wildlife officials in Tennessee charged four hunters after they imported white-tailed deer carcasses into the state from Virginia, where chronic wasting disease has been confirmed, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency said.

On the opening day of Tennessee muzzleloader season, Nov. 11, and the opening day of rifle season, Nov. 18, Carter County wildlife officers Dennis Ward and John Ripley charged four hunters with illegally importing deer carcasses from Virginia, a state that confirmed a presence of chronic wasting disease in 2009.

The hunters, who the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency did not identify in a news release, brought the entire deer carcasses into Tennessee, the TWRA said. The carcasses had not been properly prepared, as required by law, the release states.

Chronic wasting disease has been documented in deer in 23 states and two Canadian provinces, according to the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance. It is a contagious neurological disease affecting deer, elk and moose. The disease causes a characteristic spongy degeneration of the brains of infected animals, resulting in emaciation, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions and death, the alliance said.

Last year, only portions of Virginia where chronic wasting disease had been detected were banned, the TWRA said. This year, importation restrictions apply to the entire state.

In the effort to help prevent chronic wasting disease from entering Tennessee, where it has not yet been reported, the state’s wildlife agency has placed importation restrictions for cervids, or mammals of the deer family, including deer, moose and elk carcasses from any state that has a positive case of the disease, such as Virginia, the release states.

Tennessee does permit properly processed carcasses to enter the state, according to the agency. Carcasses that have had meat with bones removed; cleaned antlers or skulls; cleaned teeth or finished taxidermy, hides or tanned products may be brought into Tennessee.

Virginia has diagnosed 22 chronic wasting disease-positive white-tailed deer, according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Most of the positive cases have been reported in the Shenandoah Valley area along Interstate 81.

To keep the disease from spreading, Virginia has created a containment area in the four counties in the Shenandoah Valley. Hunters within the containment area must bring their deer to a check station for testing, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries reported.

Chronic wasting disease is not known to affect humans, the alliance said.

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rsorrell@bristolnews.com | 276-645-2531 | Twitter: @RSorrellBHC | Facebook.com/robertsorrelltn

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