The following is a Miami Herald news article published on October 21, 2016. It contains graphic images.
Toro was a beloved Key deer. Then the flesh-eating screwworm infected him.
Nine months ago when Valerie Preziosi moved from San Diego to Big Pine Key, she became part of an unofficial herd: the residents of the remote island who keep watch over the official herd of famously cute Key deer.
The home she shares with her husband, oceanographer Jan Svejkovsky, sits on a three-acre lot at the end of Long Beach Road, a sun-baked spit fringed with mangrove that wraps around Coupon Bight. The bight is well known for good tarpon fishing and regularly draws the toy-sized deer. One day last spring, the former critical care nurse spotted a stately buck with a crown of antlers in full velvet. Preziosi is quick to say the deer are not pets. Don’t feed them. Don’t play with them. But love them? That’s totally allowed.
She and her husband named the buck Toro, Spanish for bull, relishing their new Florida Keys home among the herd.
“Every day we have deer coming,” she said. “We have deer trails that cross the mangroves. We know where they have their babies.”
They never in a million years suspected a grisly outbreak of flesh-eating New World screwworm would infect the deer, turning the visits into a daily parade of horror.