Citizen: We can do better servicing the needs of wildlife

Published 10:27 am Wednesday, July 25, 2018

To the editor:
For well over a decade I have had close ties to the Elizabethton-Carter County Animal Shelter, serving on the Building Committee, Board of Directors, Advisory Board and with Friends of the Shelter. Hardly a month goes by that we don’t hear the horror stories of incidents that occur in the county that is beyond the scope of what an animal shelter has any authority to control and the disappointing results of the wasted hours where they have unsuccessfully attempted to help with the problem. On Saturday, July 7, I got a first-hand taste of their frustration.
Very early that morning I was awakened by a loud baying noise I was not familiar with, almost like a scream. Soon thereafter my neighbor walked up my driveway and explained that it was the sound of a newborn fawn that had lost her momma. They made that sound so the momma can find them. Unfortunately, the momma is at the base of my drive in the middle of the stream dead from what appears to be some kind of sickness. I have four streams that run in front of my house. They converge at a culvert and feed Tiger Creek which is a stocked and popular trout stream. The doe was at that convergence. My neighbor said she had already called TWRA (Tennessee Wildlife) and left a message. I tried to locate the fawn but I do not have the stamina or balance to do much mountain climbing. I still did the best I could to locate her throughout the day, hiking up and down the mountain as her cries for help got weaker and weaker as she was starving to death knowing full well she would not live through the night.
I also called TWRA and left a message expressing the urgency of the situation and left a second message. Throughout the day and up until 9:30 that night I left three more messages for TWRA and one more on Sunday without ever receiving a return call. Between searches for the fawn I called 911 and was told to call TWRA. I also called the Carter County Sheriff’s Office and was told there was nothing they could do, and to call TWRA. Upon close examination of the doe and with the assistance of a couple of Roan Mountain residents whose family roots go back five generations in the area, I was told it was best not to touch the doe. He said the doe was sick when she died from what he said was CWD, a highly contagious disease that wiped out over half of the deer population in the area a few years ago. This deer is laying in water feeding Tiger Creek and just a few miles from the new landing in Hampton and a favorite spot to bank fish for pan size rainbow trout. I called Hampton Water and left a message but did not receive a call back. I called Shannon, the director of the animal shelter, and was told this is exactly what she has to go through regularly. She was told to direct all calls to TWRA, but they will not respond. She gave me the number of a rescue located in the Stoney Creek area of Carter County called Wynn Wood that might be able to help with the fawn. I called and they would help if I captured the fawn and brought it to them. They also said a call to TWRA is a wasted call. They prefer to “allow nature to take its course,” whatever that means. By late afternoon, maggots and blow flies were now apparent on the doe and leaching into Tiger Creek. I once again called the emergency number for Hampton Water. This time I received an answer but was told there was nothing they could do and I should call TWRA.
I called my commissioner, Mike Hill, explained the situation and he said he would do what he could on his end and get back to me. He expended all his resources, called me back and said he was also coming up with the same brick wall I had experienced, but said he would reach out to Chris Schuettler on Monday. Mr. Schuettler is Director of Planning and Zoning, but is very well connected and Mr. Hill said he had been very helpful throughout his tenure as commissioner in pointing him in the right direction. I went to Roan Mountain Park, found a well-connected resident and was given the phone number of a Roan Mountain rescue, Ron and Denise Shadduck. They said if I could find the fawn they would come and get her, but to not waste my efforts trying to call TWRA. They will not respond.
In desperation and around 9 p.m. that evening I tried to call TVA. Surprisingly, somebody answered, but not surprisingly, there was nothing they could do and gave me a dead animal hotline that would not be open until Monday. As soon as county offices opened on Monday I call Mr. Schuettler and explained the situation. Within two minutes he had TWRA on the phone with a promise to call me directly as soon as he assigned the case to an agent on call, both agreeing the TWRA number is a waste of time.
Within an hour I received a call from a young TWRA officer in Morristown named John Ripley. After giving him the full details and concerns on the contamination of the stream he said he felt everyone in Roan Mountain was mistaken and the deer likely died from DHD or locally called Blue Tongue which was not contagious. As for helping to remove the deer or get her out of the stream he said that was not his job. He did not come out to examine or confirm the cause of death and I have not heard another word from anyone.
The cries of the fawn faded from my hearing by early Sunday morning. The doe is still rotting in the stream and stench has now apparently summoned a pack of coyotes, numbering five or six, that we have heard in the middle of the night for the first time since we have lived there. My dogs will let me know they are getting close, so we lock the dogs in the house, grab our flashlights and stay on alert, locked and loaded.
On the way home to write this letter I drove by the Hampton landing to observe half a dozen campers bank fishing on Tiger Creek, completely oblivious to the contamination feeding the trout they will be serving for dinner tonight.
As a citizen and taxpayer of Carter County, we all deserve better than this. As commissioners and those elected officials that are taxed to protect and represent this community, we can do better than this and I’m asking for your help. There is a huge hole in the system that needs to be eliminated for the betterment of us all. A society is judged by how it treats its elderly, its children, and its animals. We have to do better than this.

John Bland
Roan Mountain

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