Florida Keys

One of the three hog-tied, endangered Key deer is euthanized

This endangered buck was found in the trunk of a Hyundai Sonata headed south on U.S. 1 in Florida. There were also two deer in the back seat.
This endangered buck was found in the trunk of a Hyundai Sonata headed south on U.S. 1 in Florida. There were also two deer in the back seat. FWC

One of three endangered Key deer captured over the weekend by two mainland men had to be euthanized Thursday morning due to a broken leg.

The three deer, two doe and a buck, were allegedly caught and hog-tied with twine by Erik Damas Acosta, 18, of Miami Gardens and Tumani Anthony Younge, 23, of Tamarac in Broward County early July 2 on Big Pine Key.

Around 12:30 a.m. that morning, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Austin Hopp pulled them over while they were in Damas Acosta’s four-door Hyundai Sonata on Little Torch Key at mile marker 28 for not having a working license plate light. Inside the car Hopp found two deer in the backseat and one in the trunk. The buck that was euthanized Thursday was the deer in the trunk.

“It’s unfortunate and it had to be done to ease its pain and suffering,” said National Key Deer Refuge Manager Dan Clark.

The two doe were released close to where the men were pulled over, along with the buck, which Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Robert Dube said was slow moving.

After watching the deer this week in the wild, Dube said Thursday it was taken to Marathon Veterinary Hospital where an X-ray revealed it had a broken leg. The decision was made to euthanize it because of its slim odds of survival in the wild, Dube said.

“It was not doing well or making any improvements,” Clark said. “We wanted to ease its pain and suffering as much as humanly possible.”

The carcass will be used as evidence in court, Dube said.

Key deer, on the Endangered Species List, grow to about the size of a large dog, are found only in the Florida Keys and become stressed easily, especially if captured, according to Clark. The population of 600 to 800 deer, contained to the Lower Keys, is federally protected.

Arraignment for Damas Acosta and Younge is set for July 19 before Judge Wayne Miller at the Monroe County Courthouse in Key West at 8:45 a.m. They were both released from the Stock Island jail Monday, each on $57,000 bond.

The two have not been charged federally but each faces the same 12 charges through the state: Three felony counts of wounding a protected species; three misdemeanor counts for taking deer out of season; three misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty; and three misdemeanor FWC charges for illegal possession or taking of deer.

“We’re still waiting to find out from the federal side if they’ll be charged,” Dube said.

The state felonies are punishable by up to up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000, he said.

Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219