After a sixty-day-long screwworm outbreak among Key deer, wildlife biologists were able to count the affected herd. According to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, there are over 875 Key deer left across the world. The animals were counted thanks to the efforts of volunteers and field biologists who treated deer together with a group of scientists from Texas A&M University specialized in animal population counts.
The remaining herd is estimated to maximum 1,000 specimens, considering that some animals might not have been included in the count because they were in remote areas. The count was based mainly on No Name and Big Pine keys, where most specimens are concentrated.
Wildlife biologists believe that Key deer live in twenty-two islands, whereas the current count includes eleven. In other words, there might be more deer left. The count will be used to develop more efficient strategies to deal with the screwworm outbreak which devastated many species across the world.
The outbreak hit the Key deer on Big Pine in early September during the mating season, when 132 specimens, mostly bucks, died due to the injuries. It’s been several days since no other death has been recorded, meaning that the officials’ efforts might be working.
Entomologists used anti-parasitic treatment to deal with the infections and prevent them. In addition to this, a few million sterile male screwworms have been released to mate with females in order to reduce the number of insects.
Furthermore, the biologists from the National Key Deer Refuge have built some enclosures to trap and treat healthy deer if the population drops down significantly. According to Drew Becker, FWS biologist, the current count represents just an estimate of the key deer population, meaning that it cannot be regarded as stable.
Therefore, the experts are taking many preventive measures to make sure the deer will not become critically endangered. Unfortunately, many healthy deer died due to vehicle collisions. Worse, the statistics have shown that drivers kill more deer than the screwworm outbreak.
The wildlife officials started collecting the reproductive organs from healthy deer killed by cars to develop programs that will save the herd. More precisely, the officials will use the genetic material to prevent other infections.
Image Source: Wikipedia