Upon request, we will be happy to provide a copy of Chapter 13 of the Strategic Plan as it pertains to Furbearers.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has information on furbearers included in the Draft of the Strategic Plan for Wildlife Resources Management.

By State statue, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) is responsible for the preservation and development of all wildlife species' programs across the state.

Except for the River Otter, all of Tennessee's furbearers are game species and currently have hunting and trapping seasons.

Between 1984 and 1993, the TWRA released 437 otters in a restoration program in Middle and East Tennessee. These releases were successful and the otter population is increasing.

The River Otter is currently classified as a game species west of Kentucky and Pickwick lakes. However, East of Kentucky and Pickwick lakes, the otters are still listed as threatened. The otter are proposed for delisting and are addressed in the Furbearer Plan

The TWRA has included the reintroduction of the fisher (Martes pennant) in the Furbearer Plan. The fisher is a species that once ranged down the Appalachians into Tennessee.

Partly because of low demand within the fur trade, trapping has decreased dramatically. Some furbearer populations are increasing and are under harvested. In addition, increasing urbanization is causing and will continue to cause more complaints about nuisance animals. In some areas distemper outbreaks have been recorded and racoon rabies is expected to move into Tennessee within the next ten years.

Furbearer populations are among the most abundant wildlife resources in Tennessee, and hunting and trapping are vital management tools.

The fur trade has been a viable industry in the state for over 200 years. Traditionally, it has been characterized by requent "ups and downs" in fur prices, depending on the popularity of fur in fashion. In Tennessee the number of trapper and hunters, who take fur, has also fluctuated with fur prices, and the drastic decrease in prices over the last several years has all but eliminated fur sales of some species.

Regulating harvest has proven difficult for some species such as the raccoon, while other species have been consistently underutilized. Federal regulations, resulting from international treaties, have placed needless restrictions on the sale of some furs whose populations are not in jeopardy.

As the commercial demand for fur has declined significantly since 1987, the number of nuisance complaints have increased. Since 1989, over 100 private animal damage control operators have been licensed in the state. These operators mainly control beavers, raccoons, opossums, skunks, foxes, and coyotes. It appears that controlling nuisance furbearers may the the most profitable pursuit for consumptive users of this resource in the foreseeable future. The low demand for the fur will likely continue through the duration of this plan. The Agency should take a closer look at this growing enterprise.

In summary, some of the Golas and Objectives of the strategic plan as it pertains to furbearers are:

To protect and manage furbearer resources for all users.

To develop a program to address damage conflicts caused by some species.

Determine the number and types of users of furbearer resources in 2000-2001 and maintain or increase those numbers by 2006.

Develop an Animal Damage Control (ADC) program producing revenue for TWRA.

Promote the ADC program with the objective to establish at least one ADC license holder per county by 2006.

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