The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has confirmed that a road-killed 4.5-year-old female white-tailed deer in Holmes County sampled during routine surveillance activities has tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD).
It is the first known case of CWD in Florida, a contagious disease of the brain and central nervous system that is fatal to deer.
Florida is the most recent of 31 states to detect the disease, which also has been confirmed in four Canadian provinces, Finland, Norway, Sweden and South Korea. The first case of CWD in North America was described in mule deer in Colorado in 1967.
The FWC and its agency partners have implemented a comprehensive response plan. As part of the plan, the FWC will collect samples from specific established zones to further assess the spread of the disease. The results from this initial sampling effort will inform resource managers so they can react with appropriate management strategies.
The FWC has been monitoring free-ranging deer since 2002 to detect CWD.
During that time, the FWC has tested approximately 17,500 hunter-killed, road-killed and sick or diseased deer for CWD. In FY 2020-2021 in addition to funds generated by hunting permits, $266,000 was appropriated by the Florida Legislature to prepare the state’s comprehensive response to prevent the spread of CWD.
“With the continued support of Governor DeSantis, the Florida legislature and hunters across the state, we have taken significant steps to prevent the spread of CWD,” said Roger Young, FWC executive director. “Working with FDACS and our other partners, I’m hopeful that our combined efforts will limit the effects this will have on Florida’s deer population and preserve our exceptional hunting opportunities for future generations statewide.”
The FWC is asking anyone who sees a sick, abnormally thin deer or finds a deer dead from unknown causes to call the CWD hotline, 866-CWD-WATCH (866-293-9282) and report the animal’s location.
Currently, there is no scientific evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans or livestock under natural conditions. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do not recommend consuming meat from animals that test positive for CWD or from any sick animal.
Find the information FWC provides about precautions people should take when pursuing or handling deer that may have been exposed to CWD here.
CWD is a contagious disease believed to be caused by an abnormal protein called a prion. It is a fatal disease for all members of the deer family and is currently documented in white-tailed deer, mule deer, sika deer, elk, moose and caribou. Signs of the disease usually appear 1.5 to 3 years after initial exposure and can include extreme weight loss and abnormal behaviors such as listlessness, lowering of the head, inattentiveness toward people, walking in circles, staggering and standing with a wide stance.
The FWC and its partners, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, will update the public as more information becomes available. For more information, click here.