The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has concluded Florida’s deer herd shows no signs of chronic wasting disease (CWD) after four years of testing for the deadly disease.

CWD is a contagious neurological disease that has been found in captive and wild herds of mule deer, white-tailed deer and Rocky Mountain elk within several midwestern and western states. The disease causes degeneration of the brains of infected animals resulting in emaciation, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions and death.

No southeastern states, including Florida, have been hit by the deer disease thus far.

The FWC tested 512 free-ranging deer during the past year and more than 2,300 deer during the past four years, with no CWD-positive results.

“Early detection is the key to limiting the spread of the disease, if such an outbreak should occur in Florida,” said Deer Management Section leader Dr. Robert Vanderhoof of the FWC’s Division of Hunting and Game Management.

To reduce the chances of CWD gaining entry into Florida, it is illegal to bring into the state, carcasses of any species of deer, elk or moose from 14 states and two Canadian provinces where CWD has been detected.

The disease has been detected in New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, New York, West Virginia, and Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada. Visit the United States Department of Agriculture’s Web site at www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/nahps/cwd for the most up-to-date CWD coverage.

Once again, this hunting season the FWC is turning to sportsmen for assistance in helping monitor the state’s deer herd for CWD.

“We’re asking hunters to report any sightings of sickly or scrawny-looking deer,” Vanderhoof said. “If you see such a deer, call toll-free 1-866-CWD-WATCH (293-9282). Wildlife biologists will respond, and if necessary, collect deer tissue for testing. It’s important to contact us as soon as possible, because such testing must take place within 48 hours of a deer’s death to yield reliable results.”

CWD WATCH is part of an aggressive monitoring program to ensure CWD is not already in Florida and the disease does not spread into this state.

Currently, 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.

More information about CWD is available at MyFWC.com/CWD. The Web site also offers links to wildlife and health agencies with more in-depth information about the disease.