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New Funding in the Fight Against a Deadly Disease

The fight against a new wildlife disease in Florida recently gained a powerful ally. ICYMI: chronic wasting disease (CWD), a deadly neurological disorder that affects white-tail deer, was found in Florida last June via the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) robust monitoring program. FWC has been monitoring free-ranging deer since 2002, testing more than 17,500 hunter-killed, road-killed, and sick or diseased deer.

Thanks to Florida Power & Light Company (FPL), through its charitable arm the NextEra Energy Foundation, this monitoring and awareness program recently received a much-needed infusion of support with a $45,000 gift. This funding joins more than $300,000 in support provided by our Foundation via the Wildlife Foundation of Florida tag grants.

“Hunters and anglers are some of our best allies in conservation here in the state of Florida,” said Kate MacGregor, FPL Vice President of Environmental Services. “FPL is proud to support FWC and their work with the hunting community to develop a science-based approach on CWD that will help our state better protect the deer population.”

FWC will use the funding for surveillance, complimentary testing to understand disease prevalence, communications to the hunting community, education, and carcass disposal incentives to taxidermists and deer processors in high-risk counties. Although only one case has been found so far, FWC is prepared to respond to more.

CWD is highly contagious and can spread among deer through direct contact with bodily fluids, contaminated environments, and even through ingestion of contaminated plants or soil. The consequences of CWD on white-tailed deer populations are significant. Infected animals experience weight loss, behavioral changes and physical deterioration. CWD also reduces their ability to evade predators and affects their overall reproductive success. The disease is always fatal. As a result, affected populations may face declines in numbers, decreased genetic diversity and potential long-term implications for the ecosystem as a whole. CWD is not known to infect humans or livestock at this time.

Hunters can support FWC’s efforts to monitor Florida deer for CWD by voluntarily submitting their deer heads for testing (skull cap and antlers can be removed and kept by the hunter). Anyone who sees a sick or abnormally thin deer or deer dead of unknown causes is asked to report its location to the CWD hotline, (866) CWD-WATCH (293-9282).

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