The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has not found any evidence of chronic wasting disease (CWD) after years of extensive testing of the state’s white-tailed deer population.
The FWC tested 910 free-ranging deer during the past year and 5,519 deer during the past nine years, with no CWD-positive results.
“We are fortunate that no Florida deer has tested positive for CWD. The effect this disease has had in other states is substantial,” Cory Morea, FWC’s deer coordinator and biologist, said. “We would like to obtain more samples of deer from areas adjacent to captive deer facilities, because the most likely way for CWD to be introduced into Florida is through the importation of deer from other states.”
CWD is a contagious neurological disease that has been found in captive and wild mule deer, white-tailed deer, moose and Rocky Mountain elk within several Western states and more recently Eastern states. The disease causes degeneration of the brain of infected animals, resulting in emaciation, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions and death.
Virginia and West Virginia are the only southeastern states where CWD has been detected.
To reduce the chances of CWD entering Florida, the state prohibits importing live deer unless they come from a herd that has been certified CWD-free for five or more years. Additionally, importation of any species of deer, elk or moose carcasses, with the exception of cleaned skull caps, antlers, tanned hides and deboned meat, is prohibited from 19 states and two Canadian provinces where CWD has been detected.
Chronic wasting disease has been detected in New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, New York, West Virginia, Michigan, Virginia, Missouri, North Dakota and Maryland, and Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada. Visit the CWD Alliance website at www.cwd-info.org for the most up-to-date CWD reporting.
“Early detection is the key to limiting the spread of the disease, if such an outbreak should occur in Florida,” Morea said.
The FWC is once again turning to hunters and members of the public this hunting season for assistance in helping monitor the state’s deer herd for CWD.
“We’re asking hunters to report any sightings of sick or emaciated deer, or deer found dead from unknown causes,” Morea said. “If you see such a deer, do not touch it, but instead contact us as soon as possible by calling toll-free, 866-CWD-WATCH (293-9282). Wildlife biologists will respond and, if necessary, collect deer tissue for testing.”
CWD WATCH is part of an aggressive monitoring program intended to detect CWD in Florida and minimize its impact, should it be found.
There is no evidence that CWD poses a risk for humans. However, public health officials recommend avoiding direct contact with any sick-looking deer or one that has died from unknown causes.
For more information about CWD surveillance in Florida, go to MyFWC.com/CWD. The website also offers links to wildlife and health agencies with more in-depth information about the disease.