CWD Confirmed In Florida Deer About 40 Miles From Georgia Line
It seems almost inevitable that at some point Georgia’s deer herd will be affected by Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). After cases in Alabama, Tennessee and North Carolina, Georgia has thus far dodged the CWD bullet, although the bullet seems to be hitting closer. A Georgia case hasn’t shown up yet, but a CWD positive deer has now been confirmed in Florida in Holmes County, roughly 40 miles from the Georgia state line near Lake Seminole and Donalsonville.
Florida FWC released the following statement about a 4 1/2-year-old road-killed doe that recently tested positive for CWD: “The FWC and its agency partners take CWD very seriously and have implemented a comprehensive response plan. As part of the plan, the FWC will collect samples from specific established zones to further assess the spread of the disease. The results from this initial sampling effort will inform resource managers so they can react with appropriate management strategies.”
“With the continued support of Governor DeSantis, the Florida Legislature and hunters across the state, we have taken significant steps to prevent the spread of CWD,” said FWC Executive Director Roger Young. “Working with FDACS and our other partners, I’m hopeful that our combined efforts will limit the effects this will have on Florida’s deer population and preserve our exceptional hunting opportunities for future generations statewide.”
Georgia WRD Game Management met this morning to discuss the issue of the Florida deer testing positive and released their own statement.
“We are aware, and we do have a CWD plan, although right now we are not overly concerned (with the one case in Holmes County, Fla.),” said Tina Johannsen, Assistant Chief of the Game Management Section with WRD. “The message for now is that CWD has not been detected in Georgia, and we don’t believe it’s in Georgia.”
A reaction years ago when CWD came on the scene in Northern states was that deer were killed in large numbers in an effort to eradicate the disease or to keep it from spreading. That ship of philosophy seems to have sailed as CWD has continued to pop up in other states.
“If we have it, or should it pop up closer to Georgia, we will want to then find out how widespread it is and continue to share (information) with landowners as quickly as we can so that they make informed decisions about it,” said Tina.
WRD said one action they will take pretty quickly is to increase their ongoing testing efforts in southwest Georgia.
Along with WRD’s testing program, the legislature passed a measure in 2022 that said, “Hunters may not bring whole or gutted carcasses or whole heads of any species of deer including elk, moose and caribou into Georgia from any other state. Only boned-out meat, hides, skulls or skull caps with antlers and all soft tissue removed (velvet antlers are okay), jawbones with no soft tissue, elk ivories, and finished taxidermy products may be imported from outside the state. This is regardless of whether or not the state where the animal was harvested has found CWD yet or not.”
CWD is a 100% fatal disease of deer, including whitetails, mule deer, elk and moose. There is currently no vaccine or cure for CWD. Once a deer is infected with CWD, it can take more than a year before symptoms develop, including dramatic weight loss (wasting), subtle head tremors and droopy head and ears. In the finals stages of CWD, it is not uncommon for the deer to exhibit excessive drooling. However, other diseases or injuries can cause these symptoms. To confirm a deer has CWD, the brain or lymph nodes must be examined microscopically.
In January 2022, CWD was detected in northwest Alabama in Lauderdale County along the Mississippi-Tennessee line. Alabama immediately enacted new regulations, creating a CWD Management Zone (CMZ) that included all of Lauderdale and adjacent Colbert County. Within the CMZ, the seasonal and daily bag limit restrictions and antler restrictions for deer were lifted for the remainder of the 2022 deer season—no limits. Hunters are now required to submit heads for CWD testing from all deer harvested within the High Risk Zone in Lauderdale County at drop-off freezer locations or at mobile sampling stations. Baiting and supplemental feeding for wildlife except for bird feeders within 100 feet of a residence have been banned in the Alabama CWD Management Zone.
For more information on Georgia WRD’s CWD plan, go to georgiawildlife.com/cwd.