Magazine article Endangered Species Bulletin

One Step Closer to Key Deer Recovery

Magazine article Endangered Species Bulletin

One Step Closer to Key Deer Recovery

Article excerpt

A year-long effort to translocate endangered Key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium) from Big Pine Key to Upper Sugarloaf Key in Florida came to fruition in June 2003 when two deer were released into a "soft release" pen, allowing them to acclimate to the area prior to release into the National Key Deer Refuge.

Ann Klee, until recently counselor to the Interior Secretary Norton and chair of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, officiated by opening the gate and releasing the first deer into the release pen. The task force group represents a partnership including the federal departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Defense, Justice, and Commerce; the Environmental Protection Agency; tribal representatives from the Miccosukee and Seminole Tribes; the Florida Governor's Office and South Florida Water Management District; cities and counties of South Florida; and citizens' groups.

Dr. Phil Frank, project leader of the refuge and a Key deer specialist, was instrumental in establishing the deer release program. "We want to take advantage of the habitat on Sugarloaf and Cudjoe Keys to better distribute the deer," said Frank. "Having several populations of Key deer is important to protect the deer in case of a catastrophic event, such as a disease outbreak or a hurricane. The refuge staff erected a temporary eight-foot high fence to enclose about 18 acres to use as a soft-release pen. The pen allows the deer to adjust to the new surroundings and prevents them from returning to Big Pine Key immediately upon release."

Since the initial trap and release, three more deer have been translocated to the soft release pen on Upper Sugarloaf Key. Four of the translocated deer have been released from the soft release pen into the unfenced habitat of the key. These deer remain in the general area on the refuge and have been observed making themselves at home. …

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