PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — It sometimes goes by ‘zombie deer’ and is fatal to deer and wildlife in the deer family which include whitetail deer, elk, moose, and caribou. The official name is Chronic Wasting Disease or CWD for short.
There is no scientific evidence that the disease is contagious to humans, and to date, there has been no recorded case in Florida, the Florida Wildlife Commission Spokesperson Bekah Nelson said. She said the commission has tested over 14,000 deer since 2002 to ensure the disease has not crossed into the state.
To help keep the state of Florida CWD free, an executive order was passed last year banning the importation of carcasses from the deer family into the state. There are some exceptions to the law such as white-tailed deer legally harvested from Georgia or Alabama properties bisected by the Florida state line, by persons possessing an FWC Georgia/Alabama Carcass Importation Permit, plus some other exceptions.
Nelson said the disease can drastically reduce the deer population in areas that it exists. She explained it is a contagious neurological disease affecting the brain and spinal cords of the infected animal and is ultimately fatal. She added there is no known vaccine or cure for it.
“If you are out in the field and you observe a deer that is walking in circles, that is inattentive to humans, it staggers there, those can be signs of chronic wasting disease,” she said.
She said hunters should call 866-293-9282 if they see any local deer population acting in this manner.
Thomas Martin, a local hunter, has witnessed the disease in deer while hunting in other states.
“I have seen it first hand, it is pretty gnarly, it sucks to see what happens to these deer, there is nothing that they can do to combat as far as we know, and I have seen some beautiful animals just waste away to nothing…it is pretty sad,” he said.
Nelson said the disease can be transmitted from deer to deer directly or by coming into contact with the ground via spit, blood, or meat. The contagion remains in the ground for years afterward, which is why another local hunter, Barry Prince, said the FWC guidelines and laws must be adhered to.
“They’ve got a pretty good handle on it, we just need to pay attention to what the regulation is and don’t ruin the resources in our state…let’s pay attention to it,” he said.
For more information on the disease and details of the law including various exceptions click here.