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Screwworm Outbreak Leads To Better Count Of Key Deer Herd

The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Wildlife officials say a two-month-long screwworm outbreak among Key deer has helped biologists develop better counts of the elusive herd.

The Miami Herald reports that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists and volunteers helping treat deer in the Florida Keys believe the planet's last herd totals 875 members.

The herd had been estimated at 800 to 1,000. That estimate was based largely on counts done on Big Pine and No Name keys. The new count includes 11 of the 22 islands where deer are thought to live. Wildlife officials say it will help inform better strategies to manage the outbreak.

The screwworms are maggots that eat livestock and pets alive. Workers have been treating deer with anti-parasitics, and entomologists have released millions of sterile male screwworms to reduce the population.