Beloved Key deer, like the fawn shown here, are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. KEYS WEEKLY FILE PHOTO

Multiple organizations are offering rewards totaling up to $7,000 for information regarding the shooting of a federally protected and endangered Key deer.

On the morning of Jan. 27, officers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) responded to the scene of an injured Key deer near Crane Boulevard on Sugarloaf Key. 

The deer was in obvious distress, displayed a bleeding wound in its upper chest, and only had use of its hind legs. Due to the extent of its injuries, the deer was euthanized on scene and transported to a veterinarian for X-rays of its wound.

Imaging revealed a fragmented projectile in the upper chest cavity, and fragments were later recovered from the lung and surrounding issues. The type of firearm used has not yet been determined.

“We’ve had people harass Key deer every year, but this is the first time I’m aware of that a gun was used to shoot a deer,” said USFWS agent David Pharo. “This was intentional.”

The deer will be transported to the USFWS forensic laboratory in Ashland, Oregon, where further analysis will be conducted by forensic experts.

USFWS officials are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the culprit’s conviction. In addition, a separate reward of up to $2,000 is offered by Crime Stoppers Miami and the Florida Keys along with SaveOurKeyDeer.org, according to a tweet posted by Crime Stoppers. The public is encouraged to report any suspicious activity or leads to 786-236-2862.

With a remaining population of less than 1,000 individuals, Key deer are protected by both the federal Endangered Species Act and Florida state law. Intentionally killing an animal carries a maximum penalty of one year in federal prison and a maximum fine of $100,000.

Keys Weekly will update this story as it develops.

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Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.