Thirty female Key deer have been outfitted with radio collars in the ongoing battle against New World screwworm in the Florida Keys.
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The fragile deer, part of the last herd on the planet, were trapped and collared over three days this month by a team from Texas A&M University and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists. The collars will help biologists better monitor the does during the spring fawning season, when they are more vulnerable to infection by the flesh-eating flies.
The fawning season usually starts in March or April and because screwworms lay eggs in open wounds, biologists worry the outbreak will surge again. Deer started turning up dead in August during the mating season, when males frequently suffer head wounds during rutting. By November, more than 130 had died.
This month, two more deer died on Big and Little Munson Islands, the FWS reported Thursday. Collared deer will be checked several times a week, the FWS said, and daily once fawning begins.
The outbreak is the first in the U.S. in more than three decades and is being closely watched by biologists and agricultural officials. An infected dog was confirmed in Homestead earlier this month, triggering the release of sterile screwworms to stop the spread of wild flies. But so far, only one wild fly has been trapped.
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