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ROSSVILLE, Tenn. — The fight against chronic wasting disease (CWD) is affecting more than just deer and hunters.

Homeowners in Fayette County are feeling the effects after the state made plans to bury the carcasses of diseased animals only a few miles away.

Lawrence Philmore has lived in his home just north of Rossville for about 20 years. Little did he know, just a few miles from his neighborhood, a burial site for diseased animals has appeared.


“I don’t think that would be right,” Philmore said. “I think they could find somewhere else to put them.”

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) said the site, which appears empty, is home to CWD-infected deer carcasses.

The TWRA told WREG in a statement that the state-owned property was chosen because it’s located in the heart of an affected area: Fayette County. But residents said they aren’t thrilled about the decision.

“Once they put them in the ground and in the soil, they can go anywhere up under the ground and in our soil,” Philmore said.

The TWRA said the soil is rich with clay, which will prevent the disease from traveling.

Fayette County Mayor Rhea Taylor said in the below statement he’s concerned about potential problems that come with dumping sick dead deer into a pit.

“I am very concerned about the potential problems associated with dumping sick deer carcasses into a pit, no matter how well-intentioned.  The science on how this pathogen could affect the human population is not fully understood and covering up a known problem is never good.  Incineration, instead of dumping, of the carcasses is a sure method for its destruction and elimination from any further worry.  I feel the residents in this community have reason to be concerned.  I continue to be hopeful that TWRA will see that incineration, or at least a change of location to a less fragile area, will be a wiser course of action.”

The state said it is looking into other ways to dispose of the bodies, such as burning them, but that’s part of a long-term plan.

The TWRA said the site is temporary, and the bodies will be covered as they are brought in. They said they understand the concerns of citizens and will continue to be thoughtful in how they manage the disease.

Residents can report issues they see to the TWRA by calling 629-204-0030. A TWRA sent the below plans the agency has to take care of CWD.

Short Term Plan:

The Wolf River WMA site will be utilized until the partnering agencies agree conditions require closure and movement to a new site.  This site and possibly other sites this season if deemed necessary will offer an immediate deer carcass management option for the affected counties. Burial of deer carcasses removes potentially contaminated carcasses from the landscape and manages them in an appropriate, science-based manner. Following discussion, research, and consideration of all options, the working group determined this immediate solution will help the affected stakeholders and minimize the risk of indiscriminate deer carcass disposal and potentially increased CWD prevalence.


Long-term Plan

In addition to the immediate, short-term deer carcass management site, the working group is considering a multi-pronged long-term approach based on management strategies used by states which have been addressing CWD for many years. Available science indicates incineration at certain temperatures will destroy CWD prions; therefore, incineration is being considered as a potential part of the long-term plan. Logistical challenges outside of our control precluded us from having incinerators any sooner. In hopes of again having landfills as an option for disposal, working group members are reengaging landfill operators to demonstrate the science regarding landfill disposal of CWD-infected carcasses. This is a constantly evolving situation and the interagency working group will continue working to provide solutions to assist affected stakeholders and ensure the best management of CWD.