Endangered Florida Keys Deer Euthanized Because of Screwworm Infestation

By author of The Realblog with Stephanie Mallory

Fifty endangered Florida Keys deer have been euthanized as a result of a screwworm infestation that has recently hit the Florida Keys. This is a devastating number when you consider there are only an estimated 1,000 Florida Keys deer living in the wild.

WFTV9 ABC reports the screwworm, which is a fly larvae, is the only insect known to eat the living flesh of warm-blooded animals. The maggots enter an animal's body through an open wound and feed on the flesh for about a week before burrowing into the ground and emerging as adult flies. The wound grows significantly as they feed, and if the animal is not treated, the damage can be fatal.

Screwworm infestations are not limited to deer. In fact, the screwworm has caused suffering and losses in livestock, wildlife and even human populations throughout the world.

According to the FDA, officials will combat the infestation by releasing sterilized male screwworm flies in areas where screwworms are prevalent. Female screwworm flies only mate once in their lifetime, storing the male’s sperm for future breeding. So, when a female mates with a sterile male, it breaks the life cycle of the species.

The last time the US experienced a major screwworm infestation was in the 1960s.

Residents who have warm-blooded animals are urged to watch their animals carefully and report any potential cases to 800-HELP-FLA. Non-Florida residents should call 850-410-3800. 

Check out the Realblog for more crazy outdoor stories, and visit Realtree's Facebook page.