BIG PINE KEY (CBSMiami) -- Endangered Key deer, exposed to Hurricane Irma's life-threatening conditions, ran through the streets a day after getting the worst of the Category 4 storm.
The group of four were spotted on Big Pine Key, running among the debris, around 10 a.m.- about 24 hours after the hurricane hit.
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It's a welcome image as the federally-protected deer, whose estimated numbers range from 800 to 1,000, have been dealt a number of hits within the last couple of years, according to our news partners at the Miami Herald.
The deer got some of the worst parts of Irma's high winds, hard rain and dangerous storm surge. The key deer habitat is only about 15 miles away from where the eye made landfall Sunday morning.
What's become of the rest of the deer population is unknown but not much could have been done to protect them.
Dan Clark, superintendent of the National Key Deer Refuge, says he and his staff have no idea what they are coming back to.
"We will assess the status of all refuge resources when it is safe to do so and we have the ability to do so," Clark said.
Other blows Key Deer have been dealt include deadly infections and poaching.
Back in 2016, a nasty infection by the larvae of a parasitic fly called the screwworm infested Key deer - taking out a significant portion of the already-sensitive local deer population and killing them slowly and painfully. The issue was solved when scientists released about 124 million sterile screwworm flies to hinder their procreation process. Five months later, the screwworm problem was over.
Earlier in the Summer, two young men were arrested in Little Torch Key for having three live deer hidden in their car. One of the deer that was injured and had to be euthanized. Those men face poaching charges.
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