State officials warn of deer found with Chronic Wasting Disease in NW Alabama

CWD deer
Deer from Kansas with CWD [Photo courtesy of Mike Hopper, Kansas Dept. of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism]

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced it recently found Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in a hunter harvested deer in northwestern Alabama.  This is the first case of CWD detected in Alabama’s deer herd and the first time it has been detected in a state that borders Florida.

According to the report, CWD is a brain and central nervous disease that is always fatal to deer; it has not been detected in Florida.  The disease causes altered behavior due to microscopic changes made to the brain of affected animals. An animal may carry the disease for years without outward indication. The FWC is asking for people who plan to hunt deer, elk, moose, caribou, or other members of the deer family outside of Florida to be vigilant in helping reduce the risk of CWD spreading into Florida.

Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), stated, “CWD was first detected in Tennessee and Mississippi in 2018 and has been moving slowly toward Alabama. The Department has implemented multiple proactive regulations to combat the spread into Alabama. Compliance from the public on those measures helped delay the spread into the state for several years.”

Additionally, Blankenship encouraged hunters to be aware of the zones they are hunting in so that the disease isn’t spread further. Transporting deer carcasses out of the management zone can potentially spread CWD to currently unaffected areas.

There are new rules that took effect July 2021 that prohibit importing or possessing whole carcasses or high-risk parts of all species of the deer family originating from any place outside of Florida.

Under the new rules people may only import into Florida:

De-boned meat

Finished taxidermy mounts

Clean hides and antlers

Skulls, skull caps, and teeth if all soft tissue has been removed

The only exception to this rule is deer harvested from a property in Georgia or Alabama that is bisected by the Florida state line AND under the same ownership may be imported into Florida.

Chuck Sykes, Director of ADCNR’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, stated, “The new regulation is intended to increase the opportunities for hunters to supply samples for CWD testing. We need hunters to continue to hunt and submit deer heads for testing. These additional samples will help us better determine the extent of the disease in this area.”