Tag Archives: key deer

Delisting Key Deer On Federal Agenda?

Key Deer

An article at the Miami Herald says that federal officials are quietly considering removing endangered status from the Florida Key Deer.

With population estimates showing numbers down to around 950 and recent population hits from screwworms and hurricanes it seems like an odd time to consider reducing their status to “threatened” according to retired biologist Tom Wilmers.

Dehydrated_key_deer_(36952540200)
A dehydrated Key Deer drinks water provided by USFWS at National Key Deer Refuge. (Photo by Dan Chapman?USFWS)

“Down-listing the Key deer to threatened is beyond absurd,” said Tom Wilmers, a deer biologist who retired from the National Key Deer Refuge after nearly 30 years. “Their habitat is horrible. They’ve been hit by a hurricane. There was the horrible situation with those screwworms. And now you’re going to talk about down-listing them? What is better than it was 25 years ago? Nothing.”

Endangered species have always been under the gun so to speak due to the controversial nature of the Endangered Species Act which at times has caused logging and other activities to cease.
And in recent years there has been a trend toward delisting subspecies of. Recently the Louisiana black bear was delisted, despite still low populations and it is not surprising to see these deer examined. There are those who argue that there is not much difference between a Louisiana black bear and other black bear subspecies so protection should come from states as they determine population levels in their territory, not from the federal government.
In the case of the Florida Key Deer there is a good chance this designation change will not happen due to the high-profile of the species. However, even considering changing their status is…well…strange.
My concern for the species with a delisting is that it will embolden wildlife smugglers and poachers to take a toll on an already decimated population.
key-deer-captured-in-illegal-take-case
The key deer found smuggled last year. (US Fish and Wildlife Service Photo)
I have been on multiple Texas ranches that have more whitetail within their acreage than the Florida Keys have their namesake deer (950). When looking at situations like this it is all about perspective and I cannot help but think about the above statement and realizing a single disease outbreak or major storm could literally wipe out most of the remaining key deer. In this case I hope common sense and good science prevails and this national treasure retains the protection it deserves.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Key deer poachers nabbed, hurricane death toll tallied

The biggest ecological concern of Hurricane Irma was the highly endangered key deer which only lives on a handful of islands in the Florida keys.

With only 949 estimated key deer remaining (I have been on many ranches with more whitetail than than in Texas) U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials estimate the storm killed 21 deer and in 2016 they were hit by a screwworm infestation that took 135.

Now two South Florida residents, who captured and restrained three Florida Key deer on Big Pine Key according to US Fish and Wildlife Service officials, were sentenced Oct. 31, 2017, in federal court in Key West for violations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Erik Damas Acosta, 18, of Miami Gardens, and Tumani A. Younge, 23, of Tamarac, previously pled guilty for their involvement in the July 2, 2017 incident in Monroe County, Florida. United States District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez sentenced Acosta to one year in jail, followed by two years of supervised release, and ordered him to perform 200 hours of community service. Younge was sentenced to time already served, placed on 180 days of home confinement subject to electronic monitoring, given a term of supervised release of two years, and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service. The Court found that neither defendant could pay a criminal fine.

Two small deer discovered hog tied in a car.
Two Key deer discovered in the defendant’s car. Photo by USFWS.

According to court records, including a Joint Factual Statement signed by the defendants, they used food to lure the deer and captured them. The defendants tied up the deer and placed them in their vehicle. They further admitted their actions injured an adult male Key deer, including a fractured leg. The animal later had to be euthanized by authorities.

 

I have written on several occasions in recent months about the huge problem of young people poaching endangered wildlife. This is another terrible example.

The issue must be addressed and vulnerable species like the key deer must continue to be protected.

We’ll keep you updated with all key deer related issues.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Key deer live through Hurricane Irma (video)

We have been promising to keep you updated as to the status of the federally endangered key deer in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

The following is a video captured by veteran television journalist David Sutta via Facebook showing four key deer on Big Pine Key after Irma blasted through.

Big Pine Key is where the majority of the population lives. Thanks to Cody Conway from Wild Imaging for sending this to me.

Our contacts in key deer research have been unavailable and have not been able to access their research areas. We hope to have more on the status of the deer in the coming days and weeks.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

Key deer major concern as Irma hammers Florida

The average elevation of Big Pine Key off the mainland coast of Florida is three feet.

Early reports of storm surge from Hurricane Irma hitting Big Pine Key is 10 feet.

Big Pine Key is home to the majority of the federally endangered key deer, the smallest subspecies of whitetail and it is headquarters of National Key Deer Refuge.

Kate-Watts-

Key Deer have had a rough go of it in the last couple of years.

“While there had been no screwworm outbreaks in the U.S. for the past 30 years, one began last July (2016) on Big Pine Key, which affected the Key deer population,” said Dr. Roel Lopez, institute director and co-principal investigator for the Key deer study, San Antonio, a project of Texas A&M University.

Last year screwworms infested the population, which is spread across more than 20 islands. It has led to 135 Key deer deaths, including 83 that were euthanized to reduce the risk of further infection.

“This was a significant blow to a species of which is uniquely located in that area and has an estimated population of just 875,” said Lopez, who noted the mortalities were chiefly among adult males.

We will be contacting officials with the key deer study as well as at National Key Deer Refuge to monitor what is happening with the species.

A 10 foot surge could have serious consequences to all wildlife of the keys but the key deer is the most vulnerable. And they have already been hit by a severe (proportionally speaking) screwworm outbreak.

Mid-day Monday we found a report at the Miami Herald about the species.

Dan Clark superintendent of the National Key Deer Refuge, said his first priority as the massive storm approached was to evacuate National Wildlife Refuge personnel assigned to the area.

“After we receive information from Monroe County that it is safe to return and we can inhabit the Lower Keys, a post-storm assessment of our facilities and residences will be conducted to determine if we can operate,” Clark said.

As we get updates we will keep you updated.

Chester Moore, Jr.