Tuesday, November 1, 2016

11/1 Leaving the Keys, Driving to St Lucie South

I have not written much about it, but there has been a big problem with a screwworm infestation of the Key Deer population on Big Pine Key and No Name Key, which is just south of Bahia Honda Key and Marathon Key. Key Deer are very small, about the size of German Shepard dogs, and are endangered.  There are only about 1,000 total, with 200 living on Big Pine and No Name Key.  In the month of October they lost over 20 deer to these worms which are laid on open wounds by a species of botflies.  The larva burrow into their victims. A lot of bucks get injured this time of year because of the rut and get infected in the wounds that result from fights. 

They are trying to control the outbreak by dropping sterile male botflies from helicopters and enlisting the help of volunteers to feed the deer medicated bread.  There are quite a few homes bordering the sanctuary on those two islands, so the deer have become accustomed to begging food.  There is a coding system where volunteers who feed medicated bread to a specific deer are supposed to spray a fed deer with dye in a particular color.  A week later, if they are able to give a deer that has dye on it more medicated bread, it gets sprayed with a different color to prevent it from being given too much medication, but getting two doses about a week apart.  Here are a couple of articles explaining the infestation and the treatment:
On my way out of the Keys this morning, I saw this animal inspection checkpoint.  You were warned to stop or face a large fine if you had any animals at all in your vehicle so that they could be inspected for screwworms.  The concern is that they could escape the Keys in pets and cause cattle and other animal populations to be infected, as happened 60 years ago.

Now, you may wonder what this is.  This is the hood of my motorhome with muddy raccoon tracks on it.  They are a little hard to see, but they are definitely raccoon prints! 

I had parked under a small tree last night and suspect something jumped on my vehicle. It has been raining a lot lately, hence a lot of mud.  This looks like where a raccoon or something else slid off my vehicle!

Finally, I made it to one of my favorite campgrounds, the St. Lucie South Corps of Engineering campground next to the lock and dam that allows boats to travel from the Atlantic Ocean near Port St. Lucie to Lake Okeechobee and on westward to Fort Myers.  Later on I will be staying at the two other Corps campgrounds at locks and dams along the river to the Gulf. 

There are only nine sites here and only three are along the river, so I had to make my reservation 11 months ago!  It was well worth getting up at 4:30 am California time last October 1 and making this reservation! 

Besides the RV camping spots, there are several watercraft camping spots.  Boats must be self-contained and have sleeping cabins to qualify to tie up here overnight and use the electric hookups. There is also a large pavilion with picnic tables, grills, and a couple of campfire spots for boats to use.

Past the boats, you can see the dam on the left and the locks on the right.

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