Possible ban of deer importation

Efforts to keep Chronic Wasting Disease out of Fla.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - State wildlife regulators will decide Friday whether to ban imported deer into the state.

The proposed ban is an effort to keep Florida deer safe from a cousin to Mad Cow disease -- Chronic Wasting Disease.

There is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans, and the proposed ban is pitting hunting lodges against the National Rifle Association.

State regulators will decide if they will ban imported deer to Florida, and the NRA says the future of hunting is at stake.

CWD affects deer, elk and moose. It turns animal's brains into Swiss cheese. Always fatal, the animals literally waste away.

Staff at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are recommending an immediate ban on importing deer from other states.

"We don't have it here in Florida, we don't want CWD in Florida," said Maj. Curtis Brown of FWC.

On one side of the debate are about a hundred hunting preserves. On the other, the NRA.

"Hunting, you get Chronic Wasting disease in this state. Who's going to want to eat a deer if you don't know whether or not it has Chronic Wasting disease?" asked Marion Hammer of Unified Sportsmen of Florida (NRA).

Fearing the ban, deer farmers imported about 450 head of deer last month. That's as many deer brought into the state in any average year.

There are basically two ways the disease could get to Florida: the migration of a wild deer or the importation of a farm raised deer.

Alabama to the west and Georgia to the north have banned imported deer for more than a decade. That makes it unlikely the disease could show up in Florida via migration.

"This disease is spreading," said Brown. "It's now prevalent in 22 states. We're the only southeastern state that allows importation of deer."

If the ban is approved, the deer that are already here could stay but no more could be brought in.

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