Tags: screwworms | flesh-eating | florida | key | deer

Screwworms in Florida Keys Eating Flesh of Tiny Live Deer

Image: Screwworms in Florida Keys Eating Flesh of Tiny Live Deer

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By    |   Thursday, 13 Oct 2016 10:02 AM

Screwworms in the Florida Keys are threatening the endangered 3-foot-high Key deer. Already the flesh-eating maggots are being blamed for the death of more than 50 animals.

Monroe County officials issued an agricultural state of emergency earlier this month because of the screwworm infestation. New World screwworms are actually fly larvae, or maggots, that feed on livestock and other warm-blooded animals, including humans, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The Key deer, a  subspecies of the white-tailed deer, live only on islands in the lower Florida Keys from Little Pine Key to Sugarloaf Key and a few surrounding small islands. There are about 1,000 Key deer living on the islands.

"This is not one to be taken lightly," Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam told local, state and federal officials in Key Largo this week, said the Miami Herald.

Dr. Cristopher A. Young, a U.S. Department of Agriculture official, told the Herald that sterile male flies will be introduced to the infected area twice a week for the next six months. Those flies are expected to mate with the female screwworms, eventually breaking their life cycle.

The Herald said chemicals and pesticides had not been effective in eradicating the screwworm in the past.

The state's agriculture department has also established an animal health check zone in which animals traveling north and into the mainland will be screened for screwworm, according to WFOR-TV. Officials said the checkpoint is being used to prevent spreading screwworms beyond the infested areas.

"The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, as well as partnering agencies, are implementing an aggressive eradication effort in order not only to protect the Key deer, but also to protect human health, Florida's livestock industry, and other animals including pets should the pest spread."

The screwworm is the latest insect problem for south Florida, as state officials continue the battle mosquitos carrying the Zika virus in the Miami-Dade County area, noted the Herald. On Monday, state health officials reported six new Zika infections from the insect.

State epidemiologists are conducting 10 investigations in Miami-Dade, including one in Miami Beach, where officials have identified active spread of Zika by mosquitoes in a 4.5-square-mile area covering most of South Beach and Middle Beach.

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Screwworms in the Florida Keys are threatening the endangered 3-foot-high Key deer. Already the flesh-eating maggots are being blamed for the death of more than 50 animals.
screwworms, flesh-eating, florida, key, deer
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2016-02-13
Thursday, 13 Oct 2016 10:02 AM
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