Editors Blog

Deer Taxidermist is Scapegoat in Tennessee

Parts of seven deer were seized from a taxidermist, and the business owner was charged, because the antlers came from states infected with CWD. (Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency)

Not sure that we can call what happened this week to a Tennessee taxidermist fake news, but it sure seems pretty appropriate. The headlines are being plastered all over social media as we speak:


Not too many news sources are batting an eye to think twice about the story, either. Sad.

The news broke yesterday when the Chattanoogan reported that James Carter Jr. of Putnam County pled guilty to five counts of importation of animal parts from a chronic wasting disease (CWD) positive state. According to the paper, wildlife officers raided Carter’s taxidermy shop and seized “parts” of seven deer that were brought in for mounting. The parts included one full deer skull and five skull plates. 

It is illegal in Tennessee (and many other states) to possess deer parts (normally skulls, spines and bones) that come from areas that have tested positive for the disease. 

But here’s the kicker: None of the hunters who brought the deer into the taxidermy shop will face charges. Yep, that’s right: String up the taxidermist to prove your point. Let’s ruin this guy’s business because perhaps seven out-of-state hunters (I don’t know that number for a fact) are apathetic or downright defiant of the transportation regulations.

Several astute hunters went to Facebook to ask essentially the same question: 

“Possession is 9/10ths of the law, but the hunters knew the deer came from across state lines unprocessed,” wrote Roddy Puckett.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency — in true government fashion — passed the buck. Pun intended.

First, in true bureaucratic fashion, the agency reminded everyone that CWD is a fatal neurological disease spread through direct contact of cervids. Next, they did what any pathetic state wildlife agency will do: blame someone else for not doing their job for them.

“It was not TWRA’s decision as to who to prosecute,” the TWRA wrote in a response on its Facebook page. “Yes, deer can walk across state borders. We cannot stop this. We can and do however, try to keep people from spreading this disease. If you’d like more information on this disease, please visit the link provided.”

Beyond lame.

According to the 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.

Hmm. Seems pretty cut and dried to me. Unless they come out with a full disclosure that states how this taxidermist single-handedly imported, transported and possessed these deer parts for their entire stay in Tennessee, I say he is being wrongfully singled out. Yes, it was a dumb move on his part to accept these deer from the hunters in the “uncleaned” conditions, especially if he knew where they originated (just assuming they had to have out-of-state deer tags on them). That’s not my point of contention.

The larger point here is this is just another glaring example the half-assed importance that states are placing on CWD preventative measures

Oh, but I’m sure I’ll start receiving the letters any moment now. “Hey, at least we’re doing something.”

Doing something isn’t enough. You need to do everything. Grow a pair and bust the guys who brought the antlers back into the CWD-free zone. It wasn’t your call to do so? It should have been. If not, then come out and say how you’re going to get that changed so the next time this happens you will set a real example.

To use a football analogy: If we truly want to do something about CWD in North America, it’s going to take an all-out blitz — not dropping 10 deep, rushing one linebacker, and then sitting around hoping that he somehow gets to the quarterback.






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