For many living in the Lower Keys, Big Pine Key especially, Key deer roaming around after Hurricane Irma was a welcome sight.
“The Key deer survived!” wrote a Lower Keys woman on Facebook.
But how many of the deer, which are on the Endangered Species List and grow to about the size of a large dog, is unknown.
Kristie Killam, Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex park ranger, said numbers won’t be available until next week. In the meantime, officers are surveying the refuge.
Before the storm, the population was estimated to be around 875.
Officers warn against feeding the deer cracked corn and dog food because both can cause sickness and death for the deer, whose digestive systems aren't adapted to that type of diet.
Earlier in the week, wildlife officers put out kiddie pools full of fresh water on Big Pine Key after they found the salt levels of freshwater wetlands were too high for the deer and other wildlife.
“We've asked to assist as well if you are comfortable with this and have freshwater to share. Please locate away from your house so the animals have a quiet place to rest and drink,” said in a National Wildlife Refuges Complex Facebook post.
One woman said she was accosted by officers twice while refilling the pools with water. Refuge Manager Dan Clark could not be reached for comment by press time.
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219