CHeRI - Cervidae Health Research Initiative

Introduction to CHeRI

Scientists at the University of Florida Cervidae Health Research Initiative, or CHeRI for short, are working together to tackle problems that affect cervids: members of the deer family like white-tailed deer and elk. This initiative seeks to promote interdisciplinary science, education and outreach that increase the health and production of captive cervids in a sustainable manner and promotes the health of native wildlife and the ecosystems in which they live.

Our stakeholders in the deer farm industry have identified hemorrhagic disease as the primary threat to economic success in Florida. Last year deer farmers lost >$32M due to a high prevalence of EHD. More information on hemorrhagic disease and the viruses that cause this disease in deer can be found on our Hemorrhagic Disease Diagnostics page. While reducing morbidity and mortality of captive deer from HD is our primary goal, we seek to maintain a diverse portfolio of projects to improve the health of cervids in Florida.

1st Annual CHeRI Science Symposium

Venue Change! We are now holding the Symposium at the Harn Museum of Art Auditorium located at 3259 Hull Road, Gainesville, FL 32611

The 1st annual CHeRI Science Symposium will be held on March 28, 2017 in Gainesville, FL at the University of Florida's Harn Museum of Art Auditorium. Biologists, game managers, deer breeders and extension specialists will learn about the state of the science in deer disease and integrated pest management. Topics include: Deer health and diagnostics, Virus discovery and diagnostic capacity building, Community ecology of deer farms and implications for disease transmission, and Vector ecology and the science of integrated pest management.

A complete schedule of events and agenda can be found here.

You must register for this event through Eventbrite here. Tickets are $30 and include breakfast and lunch.

New Newsletter!

CHeRI Newsletter Vol. 2 Iss. 1 - January 2017 (pdf) - Find out more about CHeRI's results for the Newport vaccine trial and check out a new student spotlight.

CHeRI Strategic Plan

CHeRI Strategic Plan (pdf) - In order to guide our research and extension priorities for the next 5 years of CHeRI, we have established a Strategic Plan to provide a roadmap to our mission.

Newport Vaccine does not produce homologous antibodies against EHDV

Newport Vaccine Field Trial (pdf) - Many deer farmers in Florida use Newport Labís Cervid vaccine for protection against EHD virus and bluetongue virus (BTV). We tested their autogenous vaccine developed for non-adjacent herds and found that vaccinated animals produced no more of an antibody response than unvaccinated deer. These findings are one piece of the puzzle in finding a vaccine for EHD.

New Publication!

Trueperella (Arcanobacterium pyogenes) in Farmed White-Tailed Deer (pdf) - Trueperella is a bacterium that can cause lesions in multiple areas of the body including the lungs, mouth, skin, and liver. It is a common cause of abscesses and pneumonia in deer. It also causes lesions on the face, ears, neck, lungs, and lymph nodes. It is one of the types of bacteria that is known to contribute to the disease lumpy jaw. In young fawns, it is a common cause of mortality (Ribeiro et al. 2015).

Deer Disease Alert! Screwworm fly confirmed in Florida Keys

Update- January 10, 2017: USDA-APHIS has confirmed New World screwworm in a stray dog near Homestead, FL. The dog was isolated and treated and officials have begun surveillance in the area. This is the first case on the Florida mainland. Deer farmers and other residents should watch their animals carefully. Any potential cases from Florida residents should be reported to 1-800-HELP-FLA (1-800-435-7352).

Update- December 2, 2016: The release of sterile male flies is working to reduce the screwworm population. Officials are still working to protect key deer, other wildlife, and pets from the remaining flies.

On October 3rd, FDACs declared a livestock emergency in Monroe County (see FDACS Proclamation for details) after 40 Key Deer and 4 pets were diagnosed with screwworm infestations. Since the declaration of the livestock emergency, the Key Deer mortality has risen to over 100 deer. New World screwworm are flesh-eating larvae which pose a serious threat to deer, other wildlife, livestock, pets and humans.

Screwworms are deadly to white-tailed deer and other cervids; if left untreated animals die within 7 to 14 days post infection. The larvae should be removed with forceps and the wound cleaned. If you suspect screwworm (the presence of flesh-eating larvae is the surest sign), collect the larvae in alcohol for later identification. After removal, infestations should be treated topically with a pesticide to kill any maggots that may not have been removed and to reduce the likelihood of reinfestation. Consult with your veterinarian for exact treatment plans.

It is exceedingly important to report any infestations to Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. They will assist animal owners in the treatment of infested animals and remove flies from the vicinity. The New World screwworm can quickly devastate flocks or herds and, in the past, have cost the U.S. livestock industry billions of dollars. A reported case will not result in herd depopulation, but will allow animal health officials to take steps on your ranch to help you protect your herd.

Is a pet or other animal exhibiting signs of screwworms? Deer ranchers in south Florida should be alert for infestations. Email a photo to and FDACS veterinarians will review the photo and respond to you. Write "Please review this photo for screwworm" in the subject line. Want more information? Click here for information from UF IFAS.

Warning! Following images are graphic.
Figure 1. Adult flies of New World screwworm on an infestation at the base of the antlers of a Key deer.
Figure 2. New World screwworm infestations result in rapid damage to animals and cause death in 7 to 14 days.

New Necropsy Instructional Video

Deer farmers, do you want to necropsy your own deer to send us samples for our free HD diagnostics? Visit the HD Diagnostics tab and check out the new necropsy instructional video, also found below.