Why It Matters: Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a slow and progressive neurological disease occurring in free ranging and farmed cervid species (deer family) that is always fatal and is spreading across the North America and elsewhere. This disease is a massive threat to cervid populations which threatens quality hunting experiences as well as opportunities to put food on the table. Sportsmen and women in Florida now find themselves in the middle of the fight against the spread of CWD.
- On June 15, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) released an alert stating that the first confirmed case of CWD in Florida was discovered after a road-killed 4.5-year-old female white-tailed deer was tested.
- In response to this confirmed case, the FWC is ramping up testing from specific established zones to monitor the spread of the disease.
- The disease is spread from cervid to cervid through direct contact or contact with saliva, feces, or carcass parts from an infected animal.
- In 2021, CSF submitted comments in support of the FWC’s proposed Rule 68A-4.0053, which prohibited the importation and possession of cervid carcasses or parts from outside of the state with the exception of legally harvested deer from a property in Alabama or Georgia that is bisected by the Florida state line and is owned by the same entity in both states.
Deer hunting is one of the longest standing sporting traditions in this country, is the primary driver of our hunting economy, and is also one of the largest drivers of hunting license sales, which impacts the “user pays – public benefits” structure of the American System of Conservation Funding. To put this into perspective in Florida, in 2021 alone, sportsmen and women generated over $6.5 million for conservation funding through the purchase of hunting licenses.
With the inclusion of Florida, CWD has now been detected in 31 states, including all states along the Gulf of Mexico. For hunters that travel across their state or the country in pursuit of a buck or bull of a lifetime, we need to remember that only de-boned meat, antlers, skull plates cleaned of any soft-tissue, hides, and ivories should be transported from areas known to harbor CWD. While our state and federal legislatures and fish and wildlife agencies work to prevent the spread, we as hunters should take responsibility and do our part in ensuring the sustainable future of cervid populations so that future generations of hunters can enjoy the same pursuit.
CWD is an existential threat to cervid populations across the U.S., and CSF will continue to work with the FWC, the Florida Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, and our partners to assist in minimizing the impact of CWD in the Sunshine State.