Hurricane Impacts on Key Deer in the Florida Keys Academic Article uri icon


  • The landing in the Florida Keys of Hurricanes Georges (Category 2) in 1998 and Irene (Category 1) in 1999, in combination with an ongoing radiotelemetry study of Florida Key deer (Odocoileus virginanus clavium), offered a unique opportunity to evaluate the impacts of natural disturbances on Key deer. We relocated 53 deer (female, n = 29; male, n = 24) during Hurricane Georges and 45 deer (female, n = 27; male, n = 18) during Hurricane Irene. One adult male drowned due to Hurricane Georges (<2% of radiomarked deer); no deaths were attributed to Hurricane Irene. A comparison of productivity estimates between years found a significant (P < 0.001) increase in fawn:doe estimates for post-hurricane years (1999-2000) as compared to pre-hurricane years (1995-1998). The mean fawn:doe ratio observed during 1995-1998 was 0.31. The mean fawn:doe ratio observed during 1999-2000 was 0.64. We found no significant difference in mean daily distances moved by deer between hurricane and non-hurricane years. However, we observed significantly larger ranges (95% probability area) and core areas (50% probability area) for both males and females following Hurricane Georges. Fifteen water holes were monitored monthly following Hurricane Georges, and due to the storm surge, 27% (4/15) of these water holes were found to be unsuitable for deer use (salinity > 15 ppt). In some cases, water-hole suitability did not improve until several weeks or months later. Our study suggests that mild to moderate hurricanes (Category 1-2) have little direct impact on the survival of Key deer; however, stronger storms (>Category 3) might have a greater impact due to stronger winds and greater storm surges (>3.5 m).

author list (cited authors)

  • Lopez, R. R., Silvy, N. J., Labisky, R. F., & Frank, P. A.

publication date

  • January 1, 2003 11:11 AM