A whitetail deer has tested postive for chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Florida. According to a Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) press release issued on June 15, agents uncovered the disease while testing a 4.5-year-old doe that was killed during a vehicle collision in the northwestern part of the state. It marks the first time that the fatal neurological illness has been detected in Florida in more than 20 years of monitoring, the press release states.
Since 2002, more than 17,500 hunter-killed, road-killed, and diseased deer have been tested for CWD in the Sunshine State, the agency said, and those efforts were largely funded by hunting license dollars. In 2020, the Florida legislature appropriated an additional $266,000 in hopes of stopping or at least slowing the spread of the disease into Florida’s deer herds.
“We have taken significant steps to prevent the spread of CWD,” said FWC Executive Director Roger Young. “Working with the [Department of Agriculture] 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.”
Florida is the second state to find its first official case of CWD this month. On June 6, Oklahoma announced its first case in a deer that was reported by a landowner in the state’s panhandle, near the Texas and Kansas borders. While CWD has been in Oklahoma’s captive deer herds since at least 1998, the recently-announced case was the first ever reported in a wild, free-ranging deer.
With this case, Florida becomes the 32nd U.S. state to harbor CWD since it was first discovered in captive mule deer in Colorado in 1967. “We take very seriously our responsibility to prevent, detect, and respond to animal health issues in Florida – all to safeguard our agriculture industry and our world-renowned wildlife and natural resources,” said Wilton Simpson, Commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “Ensuring the health of Florida’s deer population is a team effort, and we will continue to work diligently with our state and federal partners to respond.”