A deadly disease that plagues deer was recently detected in the remains of a road-killed deer in Florida — marking the first known instance of the illness found in the state, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said Thursday.
The road-killed animal was a 4-year-old female white-tailed deer in Holmes County. It is the state’s first known case of “chronic wasting disease,” a disease of the brain and central nervous system. The neuro-degenerative illness is fatal for deer, elk, moose, caribou and other members of the deer family. The disease has not been reported to be transferable to humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the wildlife commission, the first case of the disease in North America was logged in mule deer in Colorado in 1967. And Florida is the most recent of 31 states to detect the disease, which was found in four Canadian provinces, as well as Finland, Norway, Sweden and South Korea.
Because the disease is highly contagious, once it breaks out in the deer population, it is difficult to control its spread. It can be contracted through animal-to-animal contact or the environment.
In Florida, the conservation commission is taking more samples to assess the severity of the spread. This includes sampling “specific established zones,” though the response is still in the early stages. Roger Young, the wildlife conservation commission’s executive director, added that the state was taking “significant steps to prevent the spread” of the disease.
Signs of the disease usually appear around one to three years after first exposure, which include listlessness, weight loss and abnormal behaviors around people, such as walking in circles and staggering.
The FWC urges anyone who sees these signs in susceptible animals to report the animal’s location to their hotline, 866-293-9282.