Sunday, July 1, 2012

Do Not Feed the Key Deer

On a recent early evening, I rounded the bend on my street and came upon a car.  It was stopped in the middle of the street blocking the road, on a diagonal.  It had one car door open.  All this, and it was on the wrong side of the road.

Even though I already was going well under the speed limit, I had to jam my brakes on because this idiot was just past the bend, there was very little warning of his antics.

Upon seeing the vehicle, I knew immediately what I would encounter; illegal feeding of Key deer.

The Key deer are an endangered species.  By definition, an endangered species is a species who's population is so low they are in danger of extinction.  This is not limited to animals, but also plant life, insects and marine life.

I've been to other places where it seems like if you breathe wrong in the direction of an endangered species, you'll just about end up in jail (of course I am exaggerating here, but be patient and see that I'm going to  make a point).  However, here, there is something kind of backwards with the Key deer.  I think part of it has to do with the fact, like it or not, they are a tourist attraction.  They are not zoo animals, these are wild animals, yet guide books around the world have written about them saying "go here, go there" to see them in the "wild" (usually someone's back yard.....) or whatever.  And, certainly its no secret they exist, nor should it be secret.  They are endearing to watch, and I take great joy in the privilege to see them go about their lives.

However, they ARE an endangered species.  We are NOT to interact with them.  We are NOT to feed them, or teach them behaviors which will endanger their already precarious position in this world. Yet, people do it all the time.  Case in point was me rounding the bend just a few days ago to come upon an SUV blocking the wrong side of the road with a door open, and no driver.  What this visitor was doing was illegal on so many levels.  His vehicle was blocking the road, strung across the wrong side of the road. He was trespassing on private residential property.  And, the icing on the cake of his deeds, he was feeding endangered Key deer fruit loops.  How do I know?  Well, because he and I picked up every single nasty fruit loop I could possibly find and put them into a box I retrieved from my car.

I've never seen fruit loops growing on trees.
This is what I caught a visitor feeding the endangered Key deer in the middle of my street.

I was angry with the driver, and angry with every passenger in the vehicle.  The ringleader claimed he had "no idea" it was illegal to feed the deer, and that there were "no signs."  He may have had no idea, but he cannot say there is no signs; signs are everywhere. And, he was apparently educated enough to know to come see them, so he had a general idea of other aspects regarding the deer, of this I am sure.  Thus, I had very little patience for his claims, and became absolutely irate when after all the picking up of the brightly colored cereal scattered in the middle of the road, I saw an arm dash out the back window and release yet another fistful of cereal INTO THE STREET as they were getting ready to depart.  It was a very emotionally charged situation, and I make no apologies for my feelings.  People who do things like this are directly responsible for Key deer fatalities.

Ignorance of the law is not an excuse by the way.

After that hand disappeared back into the vehicle, I was irate. I ran up to the vehicle and had an exceptionally unpleasant confrontation. He exited the vehicle and retrieved the dropped cereal, which I took. Sadly, after they left, I saw that they had left a trail of this brightly colored cereal scattered down my street, in the middle of the road. They did their dirty deeds and left with a "feel good photo op" while we here are left with the wreckage; the main cause of Key deer death is vehicle collisions.

Key deer were now all over in the middle of the street, around the bend and on the straightway, sniffing out the blue and red cereal bits. Key deer are herbivores by nature, yet being turned into scavengers by people. They eat over 150 forms of plants that grow naturally. That is their correct diet. When some ignorant person sprinkles cereal in the street, they will eat that sugar filled garbage as opposed to what they should be eating... what they NEED to grow healthy and strong. Certain plants encourage the growth of hooves and antlers. Food people feed them cause malnutrition and other ailments within the herd.  And, if someone hasn't figured out by now, to have any animal forage for food on the street encourages vehicle collisions. We have had too many collisions to count occur on our street, which almost always results in a fatality. This is how we lost the alpha male in our herd "Big Daddy" last year, and this is how we lose countless others in the herd, including innocent fawns.  It is heartbreaking.

Do not feed the endangered Key deer.  There are Federal protections in place that prohibit this.  You are doing them no favor.  It is illegal, and if you are caught, you will be fined. And, you should know that this behavior will directly have a negative impact on the animals, it is inevitable the deer will look to people and people in cars as a source for food. They will die because they now associate a car with food. This is so basic, so simple, yet people are doing it anyway.

Shame on the person who dropped the cereal in the street.  I hope his children enjoyed the short view they had, for actions like this will ensure the numbers in the herd continue to fall, pushing them every day closer to extinction.

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