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CWD Carcass Importation Restrictions

Keep TN CWD Free

Why Should Chronic Wasting Disease Matter To You?

A note to all Tennesseans:

Whether you hunt deer and or just enjoy watching them, you should be aware of a disease known among wildlife professionals by the abbreviation CWD.

For those unfamiliar these initials, they stand for chronic wasting disease, a deadly and contagious neurological disorder that can destroy populations of deer, elk, and other animals classified as members of the deer family known as cervids.

Sick Elk - Wyoming Dept. of Game &  Fish

In Tennessee cervids include deer and elk. Other states have deer and elk populations too, but some also have moose, mule deer and other big game cervids that sportsmen travel out of state to hunt.

We are hoping with your help to get the message to traveling sportsmen that CWD impacted states are still legal to hunt, but that cervid carcasses brought into Tennessee from CWD designated states must be properly dressed and cleaned.

Regardless of whether you hunt, please help get the message to your hunting friends and relatives that CWD has not been found in our state and we want to KEEP TENNESSEE CWD FREE.

You can lean much more about CWD on this page, but please understand that CWD poses the largest threat to Tennessee’s deer and elk populations since the dawn of wildlife management more than 100 years ago.

Tennessee is among the fortunate half of the country yet to find CWD in its deer or elk herds. We want to keep it that way and we need your assistance to spread the word so that someone doesn’t accidently introduce this disease from infected carcasses.

If you are a hunter, please watch the videos on this page about how to properly return to Tennessee with carcasses taken from CWD designated states (and Canadian provinces).  Please know and understand Tennessee's importation restrictions.

Thanks very much,

Your TWRA friends

What is CWD?   Watch This Video & Help Us Keep Tennessee CWD Free!

Cleaning Teeth & Skull

Deboning Your Harvest 

Courtesy of Arkansas Game & Fish

Caping Your Harvest


Contact Doug Markham

Wildlife Commission Approves Amended Rule Intended To  Expand Tennessee’s Carcass Import Restrictions

With increasing concerns about the potential impact of chronic wasting disease (CWD), the governing body of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency voted recently to amend a rule regarding import restrictions on deer, elk, moose, and caribou carcasses.

The amended rule will now be sent from the 13-member Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission to the State Attorney General’s Office for review.

Ultimately the amendment is intended to make every U.S. state outside of Tennessee and all Canadian provinces subject to TWRA’s carcass import restrictions.

Currently the rule only includes import restrictions on states where CWD has been documented. The amendment would change the rule to include all states, regardless of CWD status.

Right now 25 states and two Canadian provinces have documented chronic wasting disease.

“This change will make our import restriction rule easy to understand,” explained Chuck Yoest, an assistant chief in TWRA’s Wildlife Division. “No matter where a hunter travels outside of Tennessee, import restrictions must be followed. “It also helps strengthen our message about how serious this disease is.”

CWD is a contagious and deadly neurological disorder that affects members of the deer family known scientifically as cervids. It is transmitted through animal-to-animal contact, animal contact with a contaminated environment, and with contaminated feed or water sources.  

 Prions are responsible for CWD transmission, not a bacteria or a virus.  Prions are misfolded or abnormal proteins found throughout a diseased animal’s body, but are concentrated in an animal’s eyes, brain, tonsils, spleen and lymph nodes.

White-tailed deer are common in Tennessee, while a small population of elk can be found in the eastern portion of the state.  Import restrictions have been designed to protect these native herds.

“We have hunters who often return from trips with an elk, deer, moose, or even caribou carcass,” noted Yoest.  “We don’t want hunters to unintentionally introduce CWD to Tennessee through infected tissues.”

While CWD is considered 100 percent fatal once contracted, it is not known to harm humans or livestock. Nonetheless, wildlife agencies across the country are working to inform the public about CWD and its deadly results on cervids and possible impacts to economies.

Many states that have documented CWD are also attempting to contain it, which is a time consuming and costly task.

Mississippi recently discovered CWD, while Arkansas documented its first case two years ago. Mississippi is just beginning the expensive task of containment, while Arkansas has spent approximately $2.5 million implementing its CWD management plan.

“We don’t want to go down that road,” said Yoest.  “We also have a CWD plan ready for use, but it implementing it will mean changing the way we manage our deer and elk herds and be very expensive.

“Many of the management practices that have made our deer and elk programs successful will have to be reversed as we try to prevent CWD from spreading. Much of the overall Agency’s focus will change to CWD, taking away from other important wildlife programs.”

More information about CWD, including videos that explain how to properly dress an animals before transporting it, can be found on TWRA’s website at  The CWD page can be found under the “Hunting” menu at the top of the website’s homepage


If you hunt out‐of‐state, please be aware of Tennessee’s carcass importation rule.

This rule is in effect to protect the state from the unintentional introduction of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

If you harvest a deer, elk or moose from a CWD positive area (highlighted below), it must be properly processed before bringing it back into Tennessee.

The carcasses of deer, elk or moose harvested outside of these highlighted areas may be imported without restrictions.

Entire State and Province Restrictions

| Arkansas | Colorado | Illinois | Iowa | Kansas | Maryland | Michigan | Minnesota | Mississippi |Missouri | Montana | Nebraska | New Mexico | New York| North Dakota |Ohio| Oklahoma | Pennsylvania | South Dakota | Texas | Utah | Virginia |West Virginia | Wisconsin | Wyoming | Alberta | Saskatchewan 


Chronic Wasting Disease Awareness, 

by Amy Spencer, Region I Information & Education Coordinator

With the start of hunting seasons across the country, it is important to review the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s rules and regulations on importing any out of state cervid harvest.  Currently Tennessee is a Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) free state and TWRA is working hard on preserving this status.

CWD is a highly contagious and deadly neurological disease that causes a spongy deteriation of the brain of infected animals.  CWD infects the members of the cervid family which includes white-tailed deer, elk, moose, mule deer, black-tailed deer, red deer, and sika deer.  CWD is transmitted through animal to animal contact, animal contact with a contaminated environment and with contaminated feed or water sources.   Prions are responsible for the CWD transmission, not a bacteria or a virus.  Prions are misfolded or abnormal proteins found throughout the body but are concentrated in the eyes, brain, tonsils, spleen and lymph nodes of infected animals.

The environment including food and water sources become contaminated through prions being shed in the urine, saliva, blood, and feces of infected animals.  Symptoms of the disease include:  weight loss, drooling, loss of muscle control, difficulty swallowing, grinding teeth, excessive thirst, frequent urination, exaggerated posture, staggering, unusual behavior, and drooping of the head and ears.  CWD occurs mostly in adults and symptoms can take up to 16 months to appear.  The disease cannot be identified by symptoms or a live animal test.  The only way to confirm the disease is to examine a deceased animal’s brain and lymph nodes.

Once CWD is established in a population it is impossible to eliminate.  Preventing the disease is the best method of protecting Tennessee’s deer and elk herds.  So, as a hunter that is planning a hunting trip in confirmed areas of CWD, you must lawfully prepare any part of the animal before entering into Tennessee.  Tennessee Rule and Regulation 1660-01.15.02 states that no person may import, transport, or possess in Tennessee a cervid carcass part from any area that has a known case of CWD except provided herein:

  • Meat that has bones removed
  • Antlers, antlers attached to clean skull plate, or cleaned skulls (where no meat or tissues or attached to the skull)
  • Cleaned teeth (with all tissue removed)
  • Finished taxidermy and antler products
  • Hides and tanned products

In summary, meat which has bones removed along with cleaned antlers, cleaned skull plates, cleaned teeth, and finished taxidermy products are allowed.

The following 24 states and two Canadian provinces are included in the CWD importation ban: Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri   Montana,  Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma,  Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

It is important to remember that CWD is not known to infect humans or livestock.  However, The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that parts of an infected deer should not be consumed.  Hunters can also be on the lookout for animals exhibiting symptoms of the disease.  If an animal is encountered, do not touch, disturb, kill or remove the animal.  Take pictures, a GPS coordinate, and contact the local regional office in the state that you are hunting to report a sick cervid.

To date, 80 free ranging elk and 9,394 deer have been tested for CWD in Tennessee with all the results being negative.

 From Region I, Amy Spencer, Madison County Wildlife Office


  • Tennessee Law On Importation Of Wildlife Carcasses, Parts, And Products
    (1) No person may import, transport, or possess in Tennessee a cervid carcass or carcass part from any area that has a known case of chronic wasting disease except as provided herein:
         (a) Meat that has bones removed.
         (b) Antlers, antlers attached to cleaned skull plates, or cleaned skulls (where no meat or tissues are attached to the skull.)
         (c) Cleaned teeth.
         (d) Finished taxidermy and antler products.
         (e) Hides and tanned products.

Our Friends At TN Wildlife Federation Understand The Impact Of CWD

The state’s largest sportsman’s group is the Tennessee Wildlife Federation. This is an organization that TWRA has worked with on numerous projects through many years.

Like our agency, the TWF is extremely concerned about Chronic Wasting Disease. Please visit TWF’s page about CWD to learn more from the sportsman’s point of view concerning the perils of this deadly disease: