BIG PINE KEY, FL – Monroe County Fire Rescue firefighter Jen Shockley from the Big Coppitt Key station responded to the Big Pine Key brush fire shortly after it started Sunday afternoon. While protecting a home and with the fire moving rapidly at that point, Shockley rescued an endangered Key deer fawn.
“I jumped into the flames and saved the little guy,” Shockley said. “He was all by himself and running for his life into the fire.”
The rescue of the spotted fawn occurred at the corner of Raccoon Run and Wilder Boulevard.
The Key deer was given oxygen and water, and wrapped in a sheet. The deer was uninjured but kept in Monroe County Fire Rescue’s tanker until the fire was under control in that area. At about 3 a.m. the deer was taken to Incident Command and released unharmed into a nearby unburned area.
This was a unique situation with a fawn and no mother in sight. Key deer usually do not need to be rescued because they have evolved over the years and know how to adapt to fires. No Key deer have been found harmed and the ones observed appear healthy and not stressed, according to Dan Clark, Refuge Manager of the National Key Deer Refuge.
It is not uncommon to see Key deer near fires. The interagency response on Big Pine Key is cognizant of wildlife during the suppression. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are active participants in the fire respond and prepared for wildlife emergencies as needed. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and FWC also assisted with traffic control to keep speeds down in the affected areas.
Clark pointed out that Key deer habitat need fires. The new growth that will follow provides nourishment for the herd.