New World screwworm flies can infest warm-blooded animals and cause catastrophic tissue damage resulting in death to both domestic animals and wildlife. Containing and eliminating screwworm infestations is critical to protecting agricultural and ecological interests in the United States.

Screwworms were eradicated from the United States more than 30 years ago, but in June 2016, they were found in the Florida Keys, which impacted the endangered Florida Key deer. The Key deer population is estimated to be approximately 1,000 individuals occupying 10-15 islands in the lower Florida Keys. In approximately four months, more than 130 deer or 15 percent of the entire population were killed by screwworm. Efforts to eliminate screwworm in the Florida Keys began immediately through the collaboration of several state and federal agencies.

Texas A&M and NRI researchers have studied Florida Key deer for the last 50 years. In an ongoing collaboration with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS), they are determining the current and future impacts of screwworm infestation and providing updated data (e.g., population estimates, viability analyses) and management recommendations to USFWS personnel. Current research efforts for Key deer includes radiotelemetry to monitor females during the fawning season when they are especially vulnerable to screwworm infestations.

Israel Parker
israel.parker@ag.tamu.edu

Dr. Israel Parker joined the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute as a research scientist and mammalogist in 2012. He conducts research at locations around the United States and leads collaborations with multiple researc…

Roel Lopez
roel@tamu.edu

As director for the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute, Dr. Roel Lopez provides leadership in the field of wildlife ecology and natural resource management. Roel works with internal and external stakeholders in develop…

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      As deadly screwworms reduce Key deer herd, IRNR and Texas A&M help multi-agency effort

      After being eradicated from the United States for more than 30 years, New World screwworm flies reappeared in the lower Florida Keys this year. Screwworms have infested the endangered Florida Key deer population, which is spread across 11 islands. Approximately 130 deer, mostly males, have been killed by or euthanized due to the infestation, according to researchers.