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Friday, April 19, 2024

Hunters urged not to bring infected deer from other states

As a neurological disease spreads in deer throughout the country, Florida hunters are reminded of importation laws prohibiting out-of-state deer, moose or elk carcasses from crossing state borders.

The law even includes deer semen, said Tony Young, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman. If the sperm is infected and used for breeding purposes, it has the potential to spread the Chronic Waste Disease, which is comparable to mad cow disease.

“Once a deer is infected with the disease, it is fatal,” Young said. “That deer will eventually die.”

The disease destroys the animal’s brain and causes the body to deteriorate from the inside, said Samantha Wisely, a UF wildlife ecology and conservation professor. It is referred to as the “Nose to Nose” disease because it can only be passed from deer to deer through nose exposure, Wisely said.

It most likely cannot be passed to humans, and no cases have been reported in Florida.Still, Young urged precaution when handling animals.

“I wouldn’t kiss them on the nose anytime soon,” he said.

Out-of-state deer meat can be transported to Florida, but it must first be deboned in the state the deer was shot, Young said. If hunters want to keep deer heads, it still has to be taken to a taxidermist in the state it was shot.

The infective agent is more likely to be concentrated within the brain, eyes, spinal cord, lymph nodes, tonsils and spleen of the animal, Wisely said. The disease cannot be killed, and this infective agent — called a prion — can be accidentally deposited into the environment where it can remain for years and infect other deer.

The disease causes plaque buildup in the deer’s brain which causes neurological damage. There are several neurological diseases that run in Florida deer. Not much is understood about why the deer have these diseases, Wisely said.

“Sometimes we see big jumps,” Wisely said of the disease’s spread, specifically throughout the East Coast.

She said the disease is spreading because infected deer are being imported into uninfected states so people can hunt them. When deer farmers sell and shift animals from state to state, they can spread the disease as well.

Physical features that indicate a deer is infected include malnutrition, saliva pouring out of the deer’s mouth and a confused look on its face, she said.

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[A version of this story ran on page 9 on 9/30/2014]

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