CROSSVILLE — The Catoosa Wildlife Management Area is closing to the public beginning Monday after officials determined that the sabotage of roads and trails there has made it unsafe.
Wildlife officials have found nails, spikes and nail-boards at Catoosa since late June, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Program Manager Kirk Miles said. Victims include a father travelling with his three children whose vehicle’s tires were flattened. TWRA officials have had 17 tires flattened on trucks and tractors, and one employee narrowly escaped serious injury when he stepped on a large nail.
The sabotage began shortly after the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission approved new rules that changed the classification of wild hogs from a game animal to a nuisance animal targeted for eradication.
Miles believes the sabotage may be from hunters reacting to that change. That’s because the nails and spikes have been found near the agency’s wild hog traps and on secondary roads leading to the traps.
Catoosa covers approximately 80,000 acres in East Tennessee’s Cumberland, Morgan and Fentress counties. Before it reopens to the public, wildlife officials plan to scour the area for more booby-traps.
“We’ll work out there with metal detectors, canvassing the area and focusing on secondary roads, trails and fields until we feel we have cleaned up the areas as much as we need to,” he said. Miles said the spikes and nails are hard to find, hidden under leaves and grass and in mud puddles.
Asked about the possibility that the saboteurs would return after the clean-up, Miles said, “That is a possibility. I would hope that it wouldn’t happen.”
TWRA hopes to reopen Catoosa before squirrel season begins on August 27, but Miles said they have no firm date.
The area is popular with horseback riders, hikers and fishermen as well as hunters.