State Officials: 2020 tick season could be worse ever

With so many people flocking outdoors, health officials say we should be extra diligent about avoiding tick bites. {File Photo}

Forget Murder hornets … state officials say locals should worry more about ticks in 2020. According to officials with the UT Ag Extension office, mild temperatures and lots of rain this winter will combine for higher than normal number of the creepy little bloodsuckers – especially in May and June when they tend to be more active.

According to local vet Dr. Bryant Morton, he’s already seeing both dogs and cats suffering the affects of tick bites this year and the season’s barely begun.

When it comes to pets, Dr. Morton advises that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of veterinary cure, which can often be lengthy, expensive, and largely unsuccessful. Dogs most commonly suffer from rickettsial disease, which causes shifting leg lameness, reoccurring fevers, and overall malaise. In cats, bobcat fever is more common. Both collars and topicals are available for both dogs and cats that kill ticks but they are notoriously difficult to repell, according to Dr. Morton. Owners can also give dogs oral monthly products.

Human exposure greater due to COVID-19

In Tennessee, there are 15 different ticks species many whose bite can cause serious disease in humans. In fact, 60 percent of the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever cases in the United States come from just five states: Tennessee, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri.

Experts expect another trend to affect the number of local tick bites this season. Due to COVID-19 concerns, a greater number of people are spending time outside now more than ever.

When spending time outdoors, especially in wooded areas and tall grass where ticks like to hide, experts recommend wearing long pants or spraying your clothes with tick repellent. Experts say throwing your clothes immediately in the washer or in a hot dryer for 10 minutes when you get home will keep ticks from lingering. You should also shower within two hours.

It’s a good idea to thoroughly check yourself and others for ticks when you return. If you locate one of the creepy little hitchhikers, pull it off with tweezers as close to the skin as possible. It’s also a good idea to throw the specimen into a plastic container and preserve in the freezer in case illness symptoms develop later. This will make both diagnosis and recovery easier.

For more information about tick-borne diseases, check out the state health department’s website.

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently owned and operated newspaper that publishes new stories every morning. Covering Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

Lynchburg native killed overnight in crash

Thomas Sullenger, better known as Matthew by close friends, died in an overnight two vehicle collision in Mulberry. {Photo Courtesy of Facebook}

Many in Lynchburg woke up Wednesday morning to shocking news, one of their own died unexpectedly overnight in a horrific car crash in Mulberry. According to family members, Thomas (Matthew) Sullenger died Tuesday night. He was just 45 years old.

According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol report, Sullenger was traveling east on the Lynchburg Highway in Mulberry around 5:30 p.m. when his 1997 Oldsmobile struck a guardrail and then traveled into the left lane striking a 2003 Ford Ranger driven by Richard Wiser, age 77, of Fayetteville.

After the collision, Sullenger’s vehicle came to stop pinned against the guardrail, according to THP’s preliminary report. Wiser was transported to Huntsville Hospital, according to family members.

Graveside service held on Friday

Born on September 12, 1974 in Tullahoma to Thomas and Debra Sullenger, Matthew lived in Lincoln County and worked at Higgins Funeral Home as a funeral director and embalmer. He graduated from Moore County High School before attending Faulkner University, Slidell Baptist Seminary, and graduated from John A. Gupton College of Mortuary Science.

According to his full obituary, “Matthew was of the Baptist faith. He loved his boys, his family, and his baseball boys very much. He enjoyed coaching baseball, spending time with family and friends, bass fishing, as well as, making everyone smile.”

In additional to his parents, he is survived by his children,Gavin and Breyer Sullenger, of Huntsville and Joey Hobbs of Fayetteville; brother, Mark Sullenger of Tullahoma; nephew, Miles Sullenger of Winchester; and niece, Courtney Sullenger of Winchester; along with several aunts and uncles.

Graveside services will be held at Lynchburg Cemetery on Friday, May 29 at 2 p.m. You can view the full obit by clicking here. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned and operated newspaper in Lynchburg. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

May 15 COVID-19 Update: 4 Thing You Need to Know Today

{Graphic Courtesy of TN Dept. of Health}

The Tennessee Department of Health released new COVID-19 case counts on Friday at 2 p.m. and Tennessee now reports 15,544 confirmed cases (271 more than the previous day). Our state has now experienced 290 deaths. That’s three more than yesterday. According to the state, 9,280 COVID-19 patients have recovered. That’s around 52 percent of reported cases. As of today, 309,756 of Tennessee’s 6.8 million residents have been tested. Here’s the top four things you need to know for today:

1|Weekly numbers show moderate increases. This week (from Saturday to Friday) 2,529 more Tennesseans tested positive for COVID-19. That’s a 17 percent increase from last Friday’s total. According to state reports, 66,178 more people were tested. That’s a 28 percent increase from last Friday. Forty nine more Tennesseans died this week from COVID-19 related illness.

2|Tennessee continues to test aggressively. According to a state-by-state analysis conducted by NPR, Tennessee continues to stand out nationally for its “when in doubt get a test” mentality … even if someone is symptom-free. According to the report, Tennessee can test everyone who wants a test because the state’s paying for it … they aren’t relying on federal dollars.

3|Weekend testing stopped. There are no weekend testing sites planned for this weekend. State official originally planned weekend tests for April 24-25, May 2-3, and May 9-10.

4|Fourth Tennessee inmate dies of COVID-19. On Friday, the Tennessee Department of Corrections announced that a 71-year old inmate at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center had died … making him the fourth state prisoner to die from COVID-related illness.

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently owned and operated newspaper that publishes new stories every morning. Covering Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

Purple Martins return to Moore County

A momma Purple Martin brings lunch to her brood. In Tennessee, Martins are nearly 100 percent dependent on human-made birdhouses for nesting. {Photo Courtesy of Leslie Scopes Anderson for the Audubon Society}

If a Purple Martin could write a wanted ad, it would a lot like this:

WANTED: Summer rental preferably near the water. Seasonal short term renter but will likely return next year. No pets but three to six kids possible by the end of season. Prefer the country but city living also okay.

Since the U.S. started dealing with the COVID-19 situation, bird watching has become oh-so-popular. And why not? You can see dozens of species with a simple set of binoculars from the comfort of your back porch or riding down a winding rural road.

Purple Martin return to Moore County every spring. In fact, they can be seen in all of Tennessee’s 95 counties. They are North America’s largest swallow and in the East, they are nearly 100 percent dependent of human-made birdhouses for nesting areas. It’s a tradition started by this areas Native Americans who once hollowed out gourds to provide nesting spots.

Purple Martin begin arriving in March and usually migrate back in September. They are also a lot of fun to watch because they eating flying insect … and do so while suspended in air. If you’re lucky enough to spot a Purple Martin house or box, watch it carefully and you’ll see its homeowner swan dive into it from great heights.

If you’d like a fun quarantine project, you can build your own Purple Martin nest box by following a design provided by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency. Click here for that plan. •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently owned and operated newspaper that publishes new stories every morning. Covering Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

State cash assistance to needy families is live now

STATE NEWS — The program we told you about earlier in the week goes live today.

The Tennessee Department of Human Services now offers monthly cash assistance to Moore County families adversely affected by COVID-19. The program, which is called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Benefits, offers cash assistance from $500 to $1000 per household depending on size. Benefits will be available for up to two months.

To qualify, a family must have children in the household, be at or below the eighty-fifth percentile of the state media income, and be able to show they been impacted by COVID-19. Documentation will include birth certificates, tax returns, school attendance records, or other documentation that verifies that children live in the household.

To apply for the program, click here. •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently owned and operated newspaper that publishes new stories every morning. Covering Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

Positive COVID-19 case in Sewanee

COVID-19 update

SEWANEE — A Grundy County pre-school announced Thursday through a public statement that the parents of one of it’s students recently tested positive for COVID-19. This is the closest confirmed case to Moore County since the global pandemic began.

Grundy County Mayor Michael Brady also confirmed the cases in a video announcement on the GRUNDY 1st public Facebook page.

Both parents of a student at Sewanee Children’s Center tested positive. The couple own residences in both Davidson County (where there are 75 confirmed cases) and Grundy County. According to Mayor Brady all person suspected to have contact with the parents are now being tested or are in self-quarantine. He went on to state that the couple has not been back to their Sewanee home since March 5. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned and operated newspaper in Moore County … covering Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, the Lynchburg Music Fest, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

Hike where Davy Crockett once did at Walls of Jericho

Check out spring fed rivers, caves, natural rock formations, and waterfalls at the Walls of Jericho Guided Hike on Saturday. {Photo Provided}

The Paint Rock River flows to your left as a Ruffed Grouse ducks behind a large Eastern Red Cedar. You can hear – but not yet see – a waterfall and smell the mossy, earthy dirt of a hidden cave. Legend holds that Davy Crockett once hunted these grounds and maybe stood exactly where you are standing. This will be the scene on Saturday, March 14 during a guided hike at the Walls of Jericho located along the Tennessee, Alabama line near Franklin County. Click here for complete details.

Originally owned by Texas oil magnate Harry Lee Center, the Nature Conservancy purchased the land in 2004. It now exists as 21,543 acres of protected land with history dating back to the 1700’s. According to area historians, Davy Crockett once explored the land when his family owned property nearby. In the 1800’s, a traveling preacher who performed baptisms in the Turkey Creek gave the area its biblical name.

It’s a picturesque piece of property with several unique features. The area contains the highest concentration of caves in the U.S. It’s also home to dozens of waterfalls nestled along gorgeous rocky bluffs. The “walls” are the result of the large, bowl-shaped natural amphitheater that gives rise to steep, 200-foot sheer rock walls.

The guided hike takes place on March 14 beginning at 8 a.m. Hikers should meet at the Walls of Jericho trailhead located at Estillfork, Alabama about 45 minutes from Franklin County. The estimated seven mile hike can be challenging. Leashed dogs are welcome. You can anticipate spring fed rivers, caves, natural rock formations, and waterfalls. Guides will also discuss Speleogenesis (cave formation) and offer both a day or overnight hike option.

There is a chance of heavy rain on Saturday. You can monitor the event’s Facebook page for up-to-the-event information or find a ticket link. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned and operated newspaper in Moore County … covering Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

Flu kills two children in Tennessee

{Art courtesy of the CDC}

STATE NEWS — State health officials report the first two pediatric flu deaths in Tennessee. According to the Tennessee Department of Health, one child in Middle Tennessee and one child in East Tennessee are now dead due to flu-related illness. The first flu-related child death happened in Texas in November.

During any flu season, children and people over the age of 65 are most at risk for developing serious complications from the flu. For all Tennesseans, health officials recommend getting a flu shot as soon as possible. Most county health departments, including the Moore County Health Department, offers flu vaccinations free of charge.

Health officials also warn those suffering with the flu to stay home and avoid infecting other people. People with flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after the illness begins but can infect others for up to a week.

There are subtle differences between the common cold and flu. Flu symptoms tend to arrive abruptly with fever, aches, and chills. Flu patients often feel fatigued and weak. Sneezing, coughing, or a sore throat are more common with a cold than the flu. Flu patients also often suffer with a headache.

The Moore County Health Department is located at 251 Majors Boulevard. They are open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday Thursday, and Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and closed every Saturday and Sunday. For more information about getting your flu vaccination, call them at 931-759-4251.•

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently owned and operated newspaper that publishes new stories every morning. Covering Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

Do cougars roam near Lynchburg?

Sheep farmer and part-time moonshiner Tom Sparks knew something wasn’t right that afternoon in 1920 as he walked in the woods behind his home. His flock responded nervously. They fidgeted and stayed close together. The last time they’d acted this way, a bear had been nearby, so Sparks examined his surroundings carefully. Moments later something pounced from behind … a large cougar weighing nearly 200 pounds and standing over six feet tall on its hindquarters. It lunged at his neck. Sparks unsheathed his knife and blindly stabbed over his left shoulder. As fate would have it, he landed two stabs and the animal ran away into what would someday become the Great Smokey Mountains.

Four years later, another man Mr. W. Orr killed a cougar just 20 miles from Spark’s cabin. When Sparks heard, he brought over his knife and matched it to the scar on the animal’s left shoulder blade. It was the same animal. And with that, the last Eastern Cougar in Tennessee was dead … or so the legend goes.

For the past 100 years, many southerners have repeated and believed a version of this story. But others claim, the smart, elusive animals never left. The truth, as always, is probably somewhere in between.

Is it really a cougar?

Though native to our state, hunters in the early 1900’s nearly hunted Eastern Cougars into extinction in Tennessee. Food supplies were short and so were populations of the cougar’s favorite meal, the white-tail deer. But according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA), there have been 10 confirmed cougar sightings in West Tennessee in the past four years. The rumors of the animals roaming East Tennessee and Middle Tennessee have persisted, but those “sightings” have never been confirmed.

Local vet Wendy Wade Morton posted a trail cam photo from her Flat Creek home just last week, that strongly resembles a cougar. It didn’t take long for multiple folks to chime in that they’d spotted one too.

But that’s unlikely according to Joy Sweaney, a TWRA wildlife biologist we spoke with.

“Folk think they see them a lot, but nine times out of 10 it’s something else” she says. “We haven’t had a confirmed sighting in Tennessee since 2016.”

According to Sweaney, there was a rash of sightings beginning in 2015 that began in Obion County in West Tennessee and ended in Wayne County in 2016.

“That’s the closest we’ve been able to confirm that they’ve gotten to southern, middle Tennessee. Whether it was one cougar that was moving around or several, we can’t confirm,” she said.

According to state wildlife officials, there are basically three sub-species of cougar: Eastern Cougars (which are thought to be extinct), Western Cougars, and the Florida Panther. Many posit that Western Cougars, which have been known to travel for thousands of miles are migrating east. They also think some Florida panthers may be heading north.

“In 2015, a hunter also illegally shot and killed a cougar with an arrow in Carroll County,” Sweaney says. “We were able to confirm via DNA that that cougar came from South Dakota. Males don’t share territory, so one will travel a very long way looking to establish his own domain.”

Until recently, it was also perfectly legal to own a pet cougar. In fact, you could walk right into a pet store and purchase a cougar kitten. But in 1980, the state started requiring permits for the animals, and some believe the surging population could be from animals who were set free.

There’s no cougar hunting season

In their fall Hunting and Trapping Guide, the TWRA states, “There is evidence cougars and alligators are expanding their territories into Tennessee. Species expanding their ranges into Tennessee are protected and may not be taken until a hunting season is proclaimed. Alligators and cougars are protected by state laws in Tennessee.”

That’s right. It’s illegal to hunt, trap, or kill a cougar in Tennessee unless your life is at imminent risk. This protection, plus the surging population of white-tail deer combine for an ideal opportunity for a cougar resurgence.

They’re often mistaken for a bobcat, the only other large cat known to live in the state, but there are a couple of key differences. One, bobcats are much smaller. A typical bobcat weighs just 40-50 pounds, where a male cougar can weigh up to 200 pounds. Bobcats have pointed ears with tuffs. A cougar’s ears are more rounded. The biggest indicator; however, is the tale. A bobcats tail is … well bobbed … rarely extending more than four to five inches. A cougar boasts a long, thick tail that can be as long as three feet.

So what should you do if you see one in the wild? One, keep your distance, say wildlife officials, but don’t run. Stand your ground, maintain eye contact, and make as much noise as possible. Also, if you can do so without turning your back on the animal, pick up any children or small pets that are with you … as the animal may be zeroing in on them as prey.

You should also report the sighting to the TWRA’s closest regional office, so they can investigate. For Moore County, that’s the Region II, District 22 office located in Nashville. You may reach them by phone at 615-781-6622. For more information about cougars in Tennessee, check out the TWRA’s Cougars in Tennessee page. •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently owned and operated newspaper that publishes new stories every morning. Covering Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

Chicken recalled at TN grocery stores

STATE NEWS | Last Tuesday, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that Tip Tip Poultry from Rockmart, Georgia recalled several ready-to-eat poultry products in grocery stores across the U.S. including seven Tennessee retailers: United Grocery Outlet, ALDI, Dollar General, Food Lion, Kroger, Save-a-Lot, and Walmart. For a complete list, click here.

According to the USDA, the company recalled the items due to potential listeria contamination. Listeria is a harmful germ that causes fever, muscle aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, convulsions, diarrhea or other gastrointestinal pain. It can be especially dangerous in older adults, people with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women.

Though most of the products should already be pulled from retailers shelves, consumers should check their personal pantries for frozen cooked, diced, or shredded chicken products that were produced between January 21 and September 24 with product codes from 10000 to 19999 and 70000 to 79999 from Butterball, GFS, Tip Top, Clean Eatz Cafe, Delizous Farm, Perdue, Sysco, West Creek, R.W. Zant Co., and H. Walker Foods. For a complete product list, click here.

For more information, visit the USDA recall site by clicking here. Consumers should immediately throw away the suspect product or return it to the store where it was purchased. Consumers can also call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 888-674-6854 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST,  Monday through Friday. •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently owned and operated newspaper that publishes new stories every morning. Covering Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}