As heavy rainfall continues to saturate southern Florida’s swamps, wildlife officials fear a repeat of the flooding that killed 90 percent of the area’s deer herd and other wildlife in the mid-1990s. According to the Miami Herald, Everglades restoration is being threatened by water levels that are the highest on record for this time of year. With the peak of hurricane season approaching, experts are concerned for the survival of the Everglades’ inhabitants.
When swamp water rises, animals such as deer, bobcats, panthers, and bears begin to gather on higher ground. Eventually, the lack of food and shelter will begin to take its toll on the animals, leading to high death rates.
“It’s natural in a 100-year act of God to have extreme high water,” said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commissioner Ron Bergeron. “The weak die and the strong survive. When you extend that event like in 1994, it becomes a man-made event, and that’s unnatural. I don’t want to wait till it’s too late.”
Bergeron is attempting to convince the U.S. Army of Engineers and other agencies to take steps in diverting the water into Florida Bay. Doing so would require construction to raise and control the flow of water in the L-29 canal through Everglades National Park. It is not a new idea, Bergeron proposed a similar plan in 2008 and it helped to lower the water by about a foot a month.
“I’m not asking for something that hasn’t already been done,” Bergeron said. “We need to be proactive rather than reactive.”
However, the Army Corps are looking for alternatives. The Corps’ deputy district commander, Lt. Col. Tom Greco, says that channeling water through the park might flood residential areas near the Everglades. It is hoped that a solution will be reached soon.
The National Park Service lists more than 40 species for mammals inside Everglades National Park, all of which are at risk due to flooding. Some of these species can only be found in the Everglades and are highly endangered. Roughly 100 panthers also exist inside the park, as well as black bears.