Save Our Key Deer post-Irma Activity Progress Report
Deer Members, Supporters and Friends:
It has been quite a month here in the Keys for us and our four legged friends! Here is an as-succinct-as possible report on our organization’s activities immediately prior, during and immediately post the devastating Irma hurricane whose epicenter directly hit the endangered Key Deer habitat:
• Support and Donations: being a newly founded organization, while our ambitions are sky high, our resources are low. However, we have been receiving a steady stream of viewership on our web page, not only local or even USA national…but International! People interested in Key Deer that genuinely downloaded content from our page include (no auto mail robots): Australia, Canada, Germany, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Isle of Man, France, Norway, Mexico, Switzerland, Poland, Panama, Dominican Republic, Netherlands, Hong Kong, Ireland, etc. … AND THAT’s JUST IN THE PAST WEEK!! We have also received an encouraging stream of actual donations from the USA, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom – most being individual amounts, a few being serious corporate donations…and perhaps most touchingly – a collective donation from a Pompano Beach, Florida school that we will meet in person this month)! All this is greatly appreciated and we will keep everyone updated on what your funds and support will go for.
• Activities (as per SOKD’s directive):
2.1) Provide volunteer labor and financial support for injured or suffering deer: Prior to the Hurricane Irma strike we reached out to several local veterinarians with our mission (remember that this is the Keys, so not many vets are here). To our surprise, we got a poor response, for various reasons: one vet who is trying to retire but had been very active in helping injured deer in the past under previous Refuges Administrations is seeking a new partner for his practice but is just no longer able to provide his time for deer. Another vet, much connected to local press and publicity, informed SOKD that he will not provide paid or unpaid vet assistance for Key Deer if requested by SOKD or individual people, although he is open to assisting if the Refuge asks (which they presently almost never do other than euthanasia). Not all is lost, however, as we are reaching out to newly established vets and others that have been here but have not had a chance to get involved at our level. We have also received multiple offers of assistance from local veterinary assistants. Additionally, prior to Irma, we were in touch with several vets from top US veterinary universities who were interested and willing to come down to the Keys to treat a buck with an abnormal condition. We are now working on permits and related bureaucracy that may be needed on the State and Federal level to allow such vets to come and assist our deer. Some post-Irma posts on social media include: a doe with a serious jaw fracture (euthanized), Buck needing assistance to ambulate due to rear legs issue (cared for by a resident then picked up by USFWS), buck with top of head laceration (successfully treated by a resident), severely dehydrated deer (treated by veterinarian, unknown final status), severely emaciated doe rescued from a covered sewer (unknown final status), doe with infected neck/jaw wound (unknown final status) and many reports of thin, emaciated and lots of reports of “very thirsty” and “hungry” deer.
2.2) Provide the Deer with Drinking Water: As soon as the Hurricane hit, several SOKD board members were urging the Federal and State agencies to inform residents to try to provide the deer, and other animals and insects with drinking water. We also contacted university scientists who study the deer and we regularly deal with to let them know the dire fresh water situation, and urged the federal and state government to respond. Using your funds frugally, SOKD members started to put out buckets of fresh water for all animals to use in BPK and NNK (we bought-out 5 gallon buckets at the local hardware stores!) Very alarming videos were surfacing on web sites with near-dying deer sucking up entire bottles of water from relief workers and others. Although the feds ultimately acquiesced that having people provide water to animals is a good idea, it took a week – 7 days from when SOKD requested this action. Despite that, altercations took place: three visiting USFWS/FWS officers accosted two women trying to put out the water buckets (after they were condoned by the Refuge for the preceding 5 days) and one of them ( from USFWS) actually stalked one of the women for the next 3 days, using verbal abuse and kicking her water bucket over. (The women reported the incidents to USFWS and filed a police report with the Monroe County Sheriff.) SOKD members continue to refill buckets and several plastic pools that were not put out by the USFWS, and also made trips to and placed water buckets on Big Munson and Little Palm Islands.
2.3 Johne’s Disease work: Two weeks prior to Irma’s landfall in the Keys, SOKD sent to the Chairman of the Board and local Little Palm Island Resort manager an official package of materials, including copies of past scientific papers explaining the dire lethal infection problem residing in their fresh water pond on the island, and asking to work together to eliminate this “deer fountain of death”. We were waiting to hear back…and then Irma struck. We are presently not sure what’s left of the pond and if the resort’s intents are to rebuild it – but will most definitely follow-up on the issue since this terrible post-hurricane situation may offer a chance to start fresh.
GOOD: We have surviving deer on BPK and NNK, and at least 2 on Little Torch, some in good shape, some in bad:
BAD: the outer islands took a direct, formidable hit, and our own direct surveys indicate Key Deer mortalities in the 60% range or even more, although some did miraculously survive even on parts of Long Beach Rd. that got totally swept over by the water surge, and on Big Munson Island whose inland flat areas became relatively protected from the surge by a newly formed sand dune “barrier”, however, presently harbors no potable water for the deer, as per SOKD member survey on 9/29/2017. In the past several days we have been asking resident members to estimate the percentage of deer they are seeing around their property now vs. numbers they usually observed pre-Irma. The responses range from 0% to 100% loss (i.e. no deer seen after Irma), but by far the most responses are in the 40-50% range – i.e. only half of the pre-Irma deer are being observed. One potential explanation for this is that some of the deer were either displaced during the storm to other areas or changed their locations after the storm. Indeed, a significant number of the polled members noted 0-3 “new” deer in their local population – deer that they do not recognize as being one of their local pre-Irma deer. However, since those newbies are included in the 40-50% less number of deer seen, that means a good 50 – 60% known to residents pre-Irma are still unaccounted for. Let’s just hope that there are lots of deer hiding in new areas not regularly visited by residents…
ALSO POTENTIALLY BAD: The post-Irma survival rates of ecologically very important sub-herds of deer on islands west of BPK are presently unknown. No posts indicating deer sightings on islands between BPK and Sugarloaf have been submitted by anyone to our survey, with two exceptions: one report from Cudjoe, stating that a large buck regularly seen pre-storm has not been seen since., and a most recent report from Little Torch where two does were seen alive. We urge any of you and your friends to provide as much info on these areas as possible.
Thank you VERY MUCH for your generous donations and for your support in becoming official members of Save Our Key Deer. We are nothing without you.
(NOTE: If your membership level includes a T-Shirt, we are experiencing a delay in getting those mailed to you. We support local, Keys companies whenever possible and that includes your T-Shirts! The printing company is expectedly back-logged in production but we will get them out to you as soon as possible. If you are expecting an 8.5 x 11 framed print, we will be contacting you by email to confirm your image preference. Thank you for your patience.)
The SOKD newsletter will be emailed to all official members within the next 10 days. You can expect some additional activity information, future projects, individual deer survival stories and a naming contest for a surviving fawn that we have followed since birth!