Science and TechAnimals and Insects


For Florida's Endangered Wildlife, Hurricanes Come With The Territory

Some animals live on tiny islands in Irma's path, and they can't evacuate.
Posted at 5:40 PM, Sep 11, 2017

As people assess Hurricane Irma's damage in south Florida, some are worried how the region's unique animal residents fared.

Florida is home to 50 endangered species; some of those are only found around the Florida Keys. For example, there are fewer than a thousand Key deer left, and they all live on some two dozen low-lying islands.

And while endangered species might be federally protected, there's not much we can do for them when a hurricane comes through. Staff at the National Key Deer Refuge evacuated and had to leave the deer behind.

But wild animals are used to bad weather — even really bad storms. It's the same reason zoos in Florida didn't evacuate: Animals tend to stay put during a hurricane anyway. Decades of storms haven't wiped any of them out — not even the critically endangered Florida panther.

And wildlife officials point out these animals adapted to their habitats; otherwise, they wouldn't live there. For Key deer living on an island, that means knowing how to swim.