The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) completed surveys of areas known to provide fresh water to wildlife in the National Key Deer Refuge (No Name and Big Pine Keys west to Sugarloaf Key) following Hurricane Irma. Due to the storm surge from Hurricane Irma, salinity levels in fresh water wetlands are on average higher than acceptable levels for most wildlife species, including the endangered Key deer, resident and migratory birds, rabbits, butterflies, and other species. There are areas on Cudjoe Key that have fresher water suitable for wildlife needs.
The general public is welcomed to help by providing fresh water for wildlife on their property until conditions improve over time as they have in previous hurricanes. Service staff and partners will also be providing supplemental fresh water stations for wildlife on the refuge.
“We recognize that fresh water is still a rare commodity at this time and first responder and resident needs should be considered before offering water to wildlife,” said Dan Clark, project leader for the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex.
If you do have water resources to share, here’s how you can help:
– Provide water in a shallow basin so that Key deer, birds, and even insects like butterflies and other pollinators can drink. (Something like an upside down trash can lid would work well.)
– Change water frequently to avoid mosquitoes; clean water basin daily to minimize disease spread. Use soapy water or a 10% bleach solution to clean containers, rinsing well afterwards.
– If there are mosquito control activities in your area, turn the container upside down or move it indoors during pesticide application. Clean the basin to minimize pesticide exposure to non-target critters before putting it back outside.
– Place containers away from residences and roads to minimize encounters between wildlife and people. Keep wildlife wild!
Service veterinarian Samantha Gibbs also conducted an evaluation of available food sources for Key deer on Big Pine Key this morning. She noted, “At this time, there appears to be enough forage so please do not feed wildlife, including Key deer.” The Service will continue to monitor both food and water availability for wildlife.
The refuge has a source for water for this effort, so donations are appreciated but not needed at this time. If you want an additional way to help, consider reaching out to Friends and Volunteers of Refuges, a nonprofit support group for the refuge, at http://www.favorfloridakeys. org/. Thank you for your support for our wildlife! Working together, we can all make a difference!