North America’s smallest deer can be found only in one place: the Florida Keys. The Florida Key deer is about the same height and weight of a medium dog, standing no taller than 30 inches at the shoulder. The adorable mini-Bambi once roamed the Lower Keys, but habitat destruction and poaching caused their numbers to dwindle to just a few dozen by the 1950s.
The Key deer is alive today thanks to federal efforts to protect it from extinction. But yesterday, the Trump administration signaled its intent to remove the deer from the list of endangered species. The Florida Key deer is one of the first casualties of a revised Endangered Species Act (ESA), which no longer recognizes climate change as a threat to wildlife.
The screwworm parasite infestation that killed an eighth of the Key deer population from 2016 to 2017 has been eradicated, but there are still fewer than 1,000 of the deer alive today. The animal continues to be threatened due to habitat destruction caused by human development and climate change. Key deer are at risk of being inundated by sea-level rise and intensifying storms — Hurricane Irma killed an estimated 200 deer in 2017. Seventy-six percent of the deer’s surviving habitat is expected to be lost to sea-level rise by the middle of this century.
“We know that Florida Key deer can swim, but can they swim and survive on 25 percent of their original habitat?” asks Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director of the Center for Biological Diversity. […]