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Deer disease monitoring stepped up

White tailed deer
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
White tailed deer

Wildlife officials are increasing efforts to monitor potential cases of chronic wasting disease in deer. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission plans to pay meat processors $20 for each deer head submitted for testing, and taxidermists would get $30 for samples taken from deer lymph nodes.

“Partners in this program play a critical role in helping the FWC (Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) determine how many CWD-positive deer are in Florida and how much the disease has spread throughout the state,” the commission said in a news release.

A deer tested positive for the fatal disease in June 2023 in Northwest Florida. The commission has not reported any other deer infected with the disease. But monitoring efforts continue because not enough samples were submitted by hunters in Holmes County, where the infected deer was found.

The disease is described as similar to mad cow disease and has been found in 33 states and five Canadian provinces. It can result in deer dying within four months. The disease isn’t considered harmful to humans, but people are advised against eating deer that test positive.

With no simple treatment or vaccine for the disease, deer farmers have expressed concern that a single positive test could require the eradication of entire herds, which in some cases represent millions of dollars in investments. Florida has monitored the issue since 2002. The state in 2021 placed certain limits on importing deer carcasses into Florida.