EVERGLADES HUNT AREA TO CLOSE DUE TO HIGH-WATER CONCERNS
September 10, 2003
WEST PALM BEACH—The Everglades and Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area (WMA) will close to public access until further notice at one minute after midnight, Saturday, Sept. 13.
The closure will effectively cancel the deer-hunting seasons scheduled on the area this fall, said Steve Coughlin, South Region wildlife biologist-supervisor with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
The closure is prompted by high water levels in the vast 671,000-acre sawgrass marsh, which includes western portions of Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Coughlin said.
FWC wildlife managers are concerned that rising water levels have restricted deer to a small remnant of high ground within the Everglades WMA.
“The available forage on these areas may become limited depending on the duration of the high water conditions,” he said.
Closing the area will keep human disturbance to a minimum, which will benefit the deer population during this critical period, according to Coughlin.
Extended periods of high water can result in deer mortality due to disease or malnutrition, Coughlin explained. The animals are also more vulnerable to parasites in their weakened condition.
“Deer typically abandon their dry ground refuges when people approach,” he said. “The deer flee into the marsh, wading through abnormally deep water and expending valuable energy. This response to human disturbance directly affects the general well-being and health of the animal during high-water periods.”
The area is closed indefinitely to all access until water levels recede. The closure includes vehicles, airboats and hikers. Closure violators will be ticketed by patrolling FWC officers and subject to fines.
Coughlin said the only exceptions would be for fishermen and waterfowl hunters using kicker-boats in the deep-water canals and adjacent marshes. Permitted alligator hunters during the ongoing statewide alligator season are also exempt.
“These exempted activities have minimal impacts on upland wildlife,” he said.
FWC biologists are continually monitoring the situation and will re-open the management areas as soon as possible.
Individuals may periodically check the closure status by visiting the FWC Web site at www.floridaconservation.org, or by calling the FWC South Region Office in West Palm Beach at (561) 625-5132.
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