Key deer births will be tracked in Florida amid screwworm outbreak

Florida Keys-Screwworm Infestation
FILE - In this February 2013 file photo, a Key deer forages for food in the National Key Deer Refuge in the Florida Keys. An agricultural emergency has been declared in the Florida Keys over a fly larvae infestation threatening endangered deer found only in the island chain. In a statement Monday, Oct. 3, 2016, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said the discovery of New World screwworm in the National Key Deer Refuge “sends shivers down every rancher’s spine.” Screwworm feed on the animals’ flesh, and infestations can be fatal to livestock and pets. (AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz, File)

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) – Wildlife officials in the Florida Keys say they’ll track endangered female deer giving birth amid a screwworm infestation threatening their herd.

National Key Deer Refuge Manager Dan Clark told The Citizen that tracking collars will be placed on 60 female Key deer.

Clark says the females and their fawns could be particularly vulnerable to screwworms during the birthing season that begins next month. Screwworm flies lay eggs near open wounds in warm-blooded animals, and the maggots feed on living flesh.

Key deer only grow to the size of a large dog. Over 130 Key deer have died from screwworms this year.

Wildlife officials have said that through their efforts to treat infected deer and stop the outbreak, they’ve learned that the herd is smaller than they previously estimated.

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