by Tony Casey
A new Tennessee State Law requires the wolves at Bays Mountain to be microchipped. (Johnson City Press/file photo)
Senate Bill 1273, sponsored by State Sen. Ken Yager, from the Kingston area, requires “any person who possesses or obtains a Class I carnivore to have a microchip permanently implanted in the animal.”
This includes wolves, bears and big cats, like lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, cougars and jaguars. The purpose, according to The Tennessean, is to have each of those animals equipped with proper identifying information and tracking capacity.
Park naturalist Rhonda Goins said none of the park’s wolfpack is currently microchipped.
She said that, while the law technically took effect on July 1, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency didn’t bring it up in their last meeting. At that time Bays Mountain Park was inspected and she was told she’d fulfilled all the necessary requirements. “I just had a meeting with the TWRA and nothing like this was mentioned,” Goins said.
Matthew Cameron, East Tennessee’s Region Four public information specialist, said during that meeting, the law hadn’t been put into play and the inspecting officer was unaware of the new law when the inspection was conducted. He said as long as compliance is achieved by July 1, 2018, then there would be no concerns.
The law is mostly aimed at zoos and circuses, which must hold true to that microchipping date three years down the road. The Bays Mountain Park wolves are the only area animals classified as Class I carnivores.
Brights’s Zoo in Limestone has dozens of different animals, but none are considered large carnivores. One of the many primates at Bright’s Zoo is the Lar gibbon. Though gibbons are listed as a Class I animal, by Tennessee’s standards, they’re not a carnivore.
David Bright, the zoo’s manager, said it’s not on his bucket list to bring in animals of that level, though some of the inhabitants of his facility are microchipped, which is common for zoos. If he did need to, Bright isn’t concerned that it would be expensive or too tasking. “Zoos typically microchip everything, so we have an identification,” he said. “Getting microchip would be like getting a shot.”
For example, Bright’s Zoo has 40 flamingos which all, inconveniently, look very much alike. Having microchips in each of them allows for identification that can combat against crossbreeding and help managers organize those animals. “Whenever we have flamingo on a nest, we identify the parent and the offspring,” Bright said.
As someone who stays on top of the latest news in regards to his passion, Bright had heard about the law taking effect and brushed up on the particulars a few weeks, even having discussed it in online forums. “We knew about it, but it won't affect us,” he said.