FWC approves draft rule amendment related to chronic wasting disease

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TALLAHASSEE — At its December meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved a draft rule amendment that continues the FWC’s work to protect Florida’s deer populations by reducing the risk of chronic wasting disease spreading into the state. The draft rule amendment would prohibit importing or possessing whole carcasses or high-risk parts of deer, elk, moose, caribou and all other species of the deer family originating from any place outside of Florida.

The draft rule would allow people to import into Florida de-boned meat; finished taxidermy mounts; antlers; hides; and skulls, skull caps, and teeth if all soft tissue has been removed. In addition, the draft rule change would allow an exception for deer harvested from a property in Georgia or Alabama if such property is bisected by the Florida state line and is under the same ownership.

Currently, FWC Executive Order 19-41 prohibits importing or possessing whole carcasses and high-risk parts from all members of the deer family from any place outside of Florida except for deer originating in Alabama or Georgia, provided certain requirements are met. Under EO 19-41, people may import into Florida de-boned meat; finished taxidermy mounts; antlers; hides; and skulls, skull caps, and teeth if all soft tissue has been removed. The draft rule amendment approved at FWC’s December meeting does not include the option to import whole deer or high-risk parts from properties in Georgia or Alabama, unless the property is bisected by the Florida state line and is under the same ownership.

The FWC has been testing deer for CWD since 2002, and the disease has not been detected in Florida. CWD has been detected in 26 states and three Canadian provinces and is one of the most serious diseases facing state wildlife agencies. This infectious disease of the brain and central nervous system is always fatal for members of the deer family, and there’s no known cure or effective vaccine. Currently, there is no scientific evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans.

The abnormal proteins or prions that cause CWD can be transmitted through direct animal-to-animal contact as well as indirectly through contact with the saliva, urine, feces, blood and carcass parts of an infected animal. It can even spread through soil. Leaving CWD-infected carcasses or carcass parts on the land can contaminate the soil, and the CWD prions are capable of infecting other deer for years.

These draft rule changes are another step in an ongoing effort to reduce the risk of CWD being introduced into or throughout Florida. The FWC implemented its CWD surveillance program in 2002 and, in 2005, prohibited importing into Florida whole deer carcasses and high-risk parts from states where CWD has been detected. Importing live members of the deer family was prohibited in 2013 and, in 2019, EO 19-41 prohibited importing or possessing carcasses and high-risk parts of all members of the deer family originating from any place outside of Florida with exceptions.

FWC staff worked with numerous stakeholder groups to develop the proposed rule changes. Stakeholders are invited to provide their input on the draft rule changes throughout the rulemaking process via an online commenting tool at MyFWC.com/Deer. The changes approved will be brought back to the commission in February for final consideration.

For more information about CWD, visit MyFWC.com/CWD.

FWC, wildlife, deer

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