TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As part of an ongoing, comprehensive campaign to reduce the risk of chronic wasting disease, a contagious disease that is always fatal to members of the deer family, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is rolling out new initiatives this year. While deer in 29 states and four Canadian provinces have tested positive for CWD, this disease has not been detected in Florida.
One way the FWC is working to protect Florida deer populations is through its new, “About Chronic Wasting Disease” video. While CWD is a complex topic, this educational video provides information in an easy-to-understand format and covers what causes CWD, how it’s transmitted, why it’s one of the most serious wildlife diseases, and how the FWC and its partners are working to prevent the disease from spreading into Florida. Production of the video was funded by a grant from Wildlife Alert, a nonprofit reward program created to encourage citizens to report wildlife violations. In addition, the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida also supported CWD education efforts through grant money from the sale of its specialty license plate. The animated 5-minute video is available at MyFWC.com/CWD.
The FWC is also partnering with the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida and Woods ‘n Waters magazine to support the need for testing more hunter-harvested deer for CWD in specific counties this year through the CWD Monitoring Sweepstakes. The only reliable method for diagnosing CWD is by testing brain stem tissue or lymph nodes from dead animals, so hunters who harvest white-tailed deer can play an important role in the fight against CWD. By donating heads of a white-tailed deer harvested from Taylor, Dixie, Lafayette, Gilchrist, DeSoto, Lee, Hendry and Collier counties to be tested for CWD, participants could win one of five prize packages, valued at $1,000 each. Those donating an antlered deer may remove and keep the skull cap and antlers. Learn more about sweepstakes prizes and rules and find donation locations at FLCWDsweepstakes.com.
The FWC also wants to remind hunters about another important measure to prevent CWD ─ rules that went in effect in 2021 to prohibit importing or possessing whole carcasses or high-risk parts of deer, elk, moose, caribou and all other species of the deer family originating from any place outside of Florida. Transporting deer, elk, moose and caribou carcasses with CWD is believed to be one of the primary ways the disease is spread over long distances.
Under these rules, people may only import into Florida deboned meat, finished taxidermy mounts, clean hides and antlers, and skulls, skull caps and teeth if all soft tissue has been removed. The only exception to this rule is deer harvested from a property in Georgia or Alabama that is bisected by the Florida state line AND under the same ownership may be imported into Florida. For more information about rules, visit MyFWC.com/CWD and click on “Rules for importing harvested deer.”
“FWC has prioritized efforts over the past two decades to do all that we can to prevent CWD in Florida,” said FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton. “The latest initiatives solidify our commitment to keep white-tailed deer healthy in the Sunshine State.”
The FWC has been working for decades to protect Florida deer populations from CWD. In 2002, the FWC implemented its CWD surveillance program and, in 2005, prohibited importing into Florida whole deer carcasses and high-risk parts from states where CWD has been detected. Importing live members of the deer family was prohibited in 2013. In 2019, Executive Order 19-41 prohibited importing or possessing carcasses and high-risk parts of all members of the deer family originating from any place outside of Florida with exceptions and, in 2021, this Executive Order was replaced by the current rule. For more information about CWD, visit MyFWC.com/CWD.