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Reducing the risk of CWD spreading into Florida through requirements on importing deer carcasses

Staff Report

Currently, Florida is one of 24 states where chronic wasting disease, or CWD, has NOT been detected. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is continuing its work to reduce the risk of CWD spreading into our state, and your involvement in these efforts is vital. Knowing and following the requirements for importing harvested deer, elk, moose, caribou and other members of the deer family are important ways you can help protect Florida deer populations.

Requirements for importing deer carcasses into Florida

With big game seasons opening in neighboring states and across the country, we want to remind everyone hunting outside of Florida that carcasses and carcass parts of deer, elk, moose, caribou and all other members of the deer family may not be imported into Florida from anywhere. Following are exceptions to this requirement:

Hunters may import into Florida de-boned meat; finished taxidermy mounts; antlers; and hides, skulls, skull caps, and teeth if all soft tissue has been removed.

White-tailed deer legally harvested in Georgia or Alabama may be imported into Florida, provided the person:

Possesses an FWC Georgia/Alabama Carcass Importation Permit prior to the carcass being imported into Florida (The FWC’s Georgia/Alabama Carcass Importation Permit is available by logging in or creating an account at the FWC’s PermitMe! webpage and following the instructions to self-issue the permit.)

Reports the carcass importation within 24 hours of entering Florida using the FWC’s online Georgia/Alabama Carcass Importation Reporting Form (through the PermitMe! Webpage.

Disposes of any remains using FWC-approved deer carcass disposal options.

White-tailed deer legally harvested from Georgia or Alabama properties bisected by the Florida state line and under the same ownership are exempt from importation permit, reporting and disposal requirements. If CWD is detected in Georgia or Alabama, importing a white-tailed deer carcass and carcass parts from that state would be prohibited.

Learn more about the special requirements for importing deer carcasses and carcass parts outlined in executive order by visiting MyFWC.com/Deer. At its December Commission meeting, FWC staff will present draft rule amendments regarding importing deer carcasses and carcass parts.

How CWD is transmitted

We’ve had hunters ask how banning carcasses and carcass parts from being imported into Florida can help safeguard our deer population. Here’s the reason. Unintentionally transporting infected deer, elk, moose and caribou carcasses is a known risk for introducing CWD to new areas. This disease is caused by abnormal proteins called prions that accumulate in the brain and spinal column, causing irreversible damage and ultimately death for members of the deer family. CWD can be transmitted in different ways including direct animal-to-animal contact. It also can be transmitted indirectly. Members of the deer family can become infected when they consume CWD prions from soil contaminated with the feces, urine, saliva, other bodily fluids or decomposed tissues of a CWD-infected carcass. CWD prions persist in the environment and remain contagious for years.

Once CWD becomes established in an area, it’s hard to control the spread and almost impossible to eradicate. CWD can substantially reduce infected deer populations. For those reasons, and because there is no known cure or effective vaccine, FWC biologists have a focus on prevention.

Support the FWC’s efforts to monitor Florida’s deer population

To confirm Florida remains free of CWD, the FWC has a robust monitoring program. Since 2002, we’ve tested more than 14,000 deer for CWD and the disease has not been detected in this state. To continue testing, samples from deer heads are needed. Deer hunters can support this effort by donating heads from deer harvested in Florida. Skull cap and antlers can be removed and kept by the hunter. In addition, hunters who harvest a sick or extremely skinny deer should avoid handling it and call the CWD hotline at 866-293-9282.