FWC considers new hunting regulation to prevent spread of 'zombie deer disease'

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) wants to make changes to deer-hunting regulations in an effort to protect wildlife from the contagious and deadly chronic wasting disease.

Also known as zombie deer disease, scientists have confirmed cases of the neurological disease in 26 states, but not in Florida. FWC wants to keep it that way.

The agency issued an executive order in November limiting out-of-state deer carcasses. Now officials are considering a rule banning them altogether.

“[Hunters] like to have a lot of deer. There's going to be more hunt opportunities, more opportunities to actually get a deer when you do hunt, so obviously you don't want any diseases killing off deer,” said David Lueck, a deer hunter and wildlife trapper. “I have friends from out of state, like Michigan and Wisconsin, and I hear how devastating it can be up there.”

FWC officials say the proposed draft rule amendment would prohibit importing or possessing carcasses or certain carcass parts from of any species in the deer family (e.g. deer, elk, moose, caribou) originating outside of Florida. Exceptions to this draft rule amendment include white-tailed deer harvested from properties in Georgia or Alabama if such property is bisected by the Florida state line and is under the same ownership as well as de-boned meat; finished taxidermy mounts; antlers; and hides, skulls, skull caps, and teeth if all soft tissue has been removed.

“If you hunt out of state, you want to be able to bring the meat back. That's why you're hunting for the deer, so hopefully they'll still be able to bring deboned meat back in,” said Lueck, who wants to help protect deer herds.

FWC says it will hold public meetings across the state in March to talk about how the proposal could impact hunters. A meeting in the Tampa Bay area is planned for March 3 in Winter Haven.