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URGENT: First Case of CWD Discovered in Florida White-Tailed Deer

FWC activates chronic wasting disease response plan after disease detected in Holmes County, Florida white-tailed deer

URGENT: First Case of CWD Discovered in Florida White-Tailed Deer

As of mid-June 2023, Florida is the 31st state to detect chronic wasting disease in free-ranging cervids.

The Florida 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.

The FWC and its agency partners take CWD very seriously and have implemented a comprehensive response plan. The FWC has increased CWD monitoring and surveillance in the area and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is prioritizing CWD testing from all samples collected from Holmes County.

In an executive order signed by FWC Executive Director Roger Young on June 19, actions include:

Map of the CWD Management Zone in Florida
Map of the CWD Management Zone in Florida.
  • Establishment of a CWD Management Zone centered around the location of the positive sample. The CWD Management Zone includes the portions of Holmes, Jackson and Washington counties north of Interstate 10, east of State Road 81 and west of U.S. Highway 231. 
  • The prohibition of exporting whole cervid (deer) carcasses and high-risk carcass parts originating from the CWD Management Zone
  • The prohibition of baiting or feeding deer within the CWD Management Zone with limited exceptions
  • The prohibition of rehabilitating or releasing injured or orphaned white-tailed deer originating within the CWD Management Zone.

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.

very underweight deer suffering from cwd with ribs and bones visible through skin
CWD is characterized by 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.

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. The FWC provides information about precautions people should take when pursuing or handling deer that may have been exposed to CWD.

infographic about precautions people should take when pursuing or handling deer that may have been exposed to CWD
While there is no scientific evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans under natural conditions, FWC warns that precautions should be taken.

Controlling the spread of CWD is difficult once it becomes established in a natural population. Because prions shed by infected deer persist in the environment, the best chance for controlling CWD is acting quickly after it’s been detected to prevent more animals from becoming infected. CWD can be transmitted directly - from animal to animal - or indirectly from the environment. Multiple management strategies will be employed to control the spread of the disease. 

The FWC along with its partners will continue to update the public as more information becomes available. For more information, visit MyFWC.com/CWD.

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