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Environment

FWC Tries To Save Florida Deer From Chronic Wasting Disease

A white-tailed deer walks through the mangroves, Thursday, May 15, 2014 at Miami Seaquarium in Miami.
A white-tailed deer walks through the mangroves, Thursday, May 15, 2014 at Miami Seaquarium in Miami.

It’s considering further restrictions on deer carcasses and other parts harvested outside of Florida.

Florida wants to protect the state’s deer population from Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). The state is looking to extend restrictions on bringing deer carcasses and meat with the bones and skin still attached into Florida. Right now, an exception is in place for deer from Georgia and Alabama. But a proposal from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) would get rid of that.

Chris Berry hunts in Florida and Georgia. He says the change would impact local businesses—like his taxidermist.

“If this rule goes through, my understanding is now Georgia—their local economy is going to get all of my deer because I’m going to have to drop it to their local taxidermist. And I bring typically, actually for the last four years, two bucks a year to my taxidermist down here in Levy County to do my deer. So, it’s going to affect that local person. I think probably three-quarters of her deer from out of state," Berry says.

Wildlife officials first identified Chronic Wasting Disease in Colorado in 1967. It has since spread to 25 other states. It’s fatal and can easily spread from deer to deer, or even by deer encountering the soil where an infected deer’s body used to be. The FWC says the disease hasn't yet been detected in Florida.

In the proposal, the FWC has a minor exception for deer caught along state lines. For those wondering what they can bring over the Florida border, deboned meat is allowed, as is finished taxidermies; skulls, skull caps, and teeth if the flesh is removed.

Newton Cook serves on the FWC Deer Management Technical Advisory Group. He supports the proposed ban, saying it's the best way to slow the disease from entering Florida. Cook says he's seen footage of CWD in action.

"It is not pretty. They just literally waste away, horrible looking, skin, and bones, and stumbling. It's not an easy way to go," Cook says.

But Cook says the FWC is only delaying the inevitable, and if the proposal is approved, it will be hard to enforce.

"How many times do you think you can stop every pickup coming down 95 or 65 or 75 or whatever and check to see if they got any deer in it? They got a deer in the freezer, in a cooler. It's just not going to happen," Cook says.

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