MONROE COUNTY, Fla. – It was a group of Key Largo residents visiting Big Pine Key who noticed the female Key deer on Sunday.
As they were taking photos of a gathering of does along with several fawns, they noticed one had something shiny and metal in her jaw: a fishing hook.
Valerie Preziosi, the founder of the nonprofit organization Save Our Key Deer, said her phone rang.
“Everyone knows about the problems with lost fishing lines, hooks, lures, and accidental snarings of birds by people fishing in the Florida Keys,” Preziosi wrote in an email, adding there is a need to raise awareness about how this hurts other animals — including the endangered Key deer.
Preziosi said a group of seven volunteers arrived and took turns by bicycle, car, and on foot and saturated the area to find the injured deer.
Finally, on Monday night, a volunteer spotted her.
A veterinarian, officers with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and other volunteers converged on the area and formed what Preziosi said was a “human net” around the deer.
Bobby Dube, a spokesperson with FWC, said the deer was believed to have been injured about two months ago.
An officer snared the deer and veterinarian Douglas Mader deftly removed the hook with his bare hands, before the stunned deer was released and pranced away.
“This successful Key deer rescue is the first in many years achieved through a novel cooperation between federal, state and local resident entities for our native animals,” Preziosi wrote in an email.