Florida

Will Key deer come off endangered list? Not if these people can help it

Endangered Key deer in fight for survival against screwworms

As of Friday afternoon, Oct. 14, 2016, 83 endangered Key deer had been euthanized because of an infestation of the New World screwworm. The screwworm, not seen in the U.S. since the 1960s, is leaving open wounds on the deer and then eating the fle
Up Next
As of Friday afternoon, Oct. 14, 2016, 83 endangered Key deer had been euthanized because of an infestation of the New World screwworm. The screwworm, not seen in the U.S. since the 1960s, is leaving open wounds on the deer and then eating the fle

In the Florida Keys, emotions are running hot over a recent federal agency’s conclusion that Key deer no longer need the official label as endangered or threatened.

A Keys nonprofit dedicated to protecting the Key deer is urging local residents to show up at a special meeting set for Thursday in Marathon over the proposal to take the deer off the endangered species list.

Many have a lot to say.

“My immediate reaction was complete shock,” said Valerie Preziosi, president of the nonprofit Save Our Key Deer, about when she learned of the proposal. “It’s absolutely inappropriate and it would be a huge mistake. There’s enough science and evidence and concern to reverse it.”

Save Our Key Deer has denounced the federal government’s conclusion that the tiny and docile Key deer, which number fewer than 1,000 and are found only in the Keys, no longer meet the criteria for a spot on the endangered list.

Some politicians have decried the Trump administration’s plan.

“Climate change threatens the natural habitat of our little Key deer,” Miami Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell tweeted. “They’re an important part of our community & still need a little human help by keeping them on the endangered list.”

Gwen Graham, the former Democratic congresswoman and candidate for Florida governor, tweeted, “Trump is now going after animals on the brink of extinction like the Florida Key deer.” She called the president and his administration “cruel and obscene.”

The federal government says it is only considering the idea, but the proposal comes after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted a review of the “best available scientific and commercial information” and concluded that threats to the Key deer have been eliminated.

The meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. at the Marathon Government Center, 2798 Overseas Highway, is hosted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has no decision-making on the agenda.

keydeerportrait.jpg
Key deer are endangered in the Florida Keys. Experts ask that people not feed or pet them as to keep them wild. National Key Deer Refuge

“The purpose of the meeting is to share information about Key deer recovery and a possible change in the listing status of this iconic species,” the agency said in a news release.

On the agenda is a 15-minute presentation called “Florida Key Deer Recovery and Status of the Species,” and then a 15-minute look at the Key deer’s recent “species status assessment.”

The floor will then open for questions from 6:45 to 7:30 p.m.

Before the meeting, the agency will announce some “ground rules,” the agenda states.

The Key deer proposal has drawn concerns from locals, who have flocked to social media to criticize the move.

Monroe County State Attorney Dennis Ward posted on his Facebook page that he believes even if the federal government pulls the endangered status, his office can apply state laws to anyone who intentionally harms a Key deer.

“Make no mistake about our Key Deer being protected,” Ward wrote on Aug. 15.

  Comments