How the FWC is reducing the risk of CWD
The FWC takes chronic wasting disease or CWD seriously and is taking a proactive approach to reduce the risk of it spreading into or throughout Florida.
CWD monitoring program
Prevention and early detection of CWD through surveillance are key for protecting Florida deer. The FWC implemented its CWD monitoring program in 2002. The FWC has tested over 16,500 hunter-killed, road-killed, and sick or diseased deer since the program began and CWD has not been detected in Florida.
Monitoring for CWD is conducted in two ways.
- Passive or targeted surveillance involves collecting and conducting a necropsy of any deer found sick or dead of unknown causes.
- Active surveillance involves testing large numbers of hunter-killed and road-killed deer throughout the state. Sample sizes are determined by county based on several risk factors, but generally we have a goal of about 300 deer per county every 10 years.
The only practical method for diagnosing CWD is by testing brain stem tissue or lymph nodes from dead animals. There is no practical live-animal test.
Learn more about the FWC’s CWD monitoring program.
Steps the FWC has taken to protect Florida deer
The FWC has proactively worked to reduce the risk of CWD since launching the CWD monitoring program in 2002 and efforts to protect Florida deer populations are ongoing.
In 2021, the FWC prohibited 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. People may import into Florida: de-boned meat; finished taxidermy mounts; clean hides and antlers; and skulls, skull caps and teeth if all soft tissue has been removed.
Once CWD has been established, it is difficult to control the spread of this disease and virtually impossible to eradicate. Because prions shed by infected deer persist in the environment, the best chance for managing CWD is acting quickly after it’s been detected to prevent more animals from becoming infected. If CWD is detected in Florida, there’s a comprehensive plan in place and FWC staff is ready to immediately respond along with other government agencies, such as the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Florida Department of Health. Multiple management strategies would be employed to control the spread of the disease, including purposefully lowering the deer population in the infected area.
How you can help prevent CWD
Hunters/landowners are encouraged to donate the heads of deer they have harvested for CWD testing (antlers and skull caps may be removed). To coordinate this donation, call the CWD hotline at 866-CWD-WATCH (866-293-9282).
Know and follow regulations when hunting outside of Florida. Importing or possessing carcasses and parts thereof from deer, elk, moose, caribou and all other members of the deer family originating outside of Florida is prohibited. Learn more about these rules to protect Florida deer populations from CWD.