The key deer population on Big Pine Key has seen better days!
Key deer populations have recently been suffering from a viscous screwworm outbreak. As of October 9th, the outbreak has lead to the euthanization of 50 of the 1000 key deer that inhabit the National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key.
This is the first time that a screwworm infestation has been found on the key in over 50 years.
According to officials at the refuge, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is working to get the outbreak under control and find out where the issue came from in the first place.
The official report by the Miami Herald stated that the situation had caused Monroe County to declare an “agricultural state of emergency.”
The carcasses of the dead deer have been frozen in large freezers on refuge property in order to keep the screwworms from spreading prior to being incinerated.
Dan Clark, the Refuge Manager, said, “We’ve been trying our best to have everything frozen in order to prepare to incinerate them.”
While in most cases deer carcasses are allowed to naturally deteriorate, in this case that is not an option. As the dead carcasses of infected deer break down, the worms may escape from the carcass and head into the ground where they continue the life cycle.
Clark said that chemicals will not be used to try to solve the issue on Big Pine Key. Instead they will be using sterile male flies to breed with the flies, and should be able to bring things under control. The method is becoming a very popular way of eradicating pests and unwanted subspecies.
Officials working on the scene expect the process to take anywhere from 3 to 4 months, but is still better that using alternative chemical methods of eradication.
Unfortunately the screwworm outbreak in Monroe County infected a few domesticate dogs and a pot belly pig. Those animals were euthanized as well.