Status assessment of endangered Florida Key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium) is currently limited by a paucity of information regarding population estimates for outer islands, which collectively comprise approximately 70% of potential habitat within the Key deer range. Practical limitations and financial considerations render traditional survey techniques impractical for application on remote outer islands. Our objective was to evaluate the utility of infrared-triggered cameras to estimate Key deer abundance on outer islands. We used digital infrared-triggered cameras and mark–resight methods to estimate Key deer abundance on 20 outer islands. Abundance estimates for primary subpopulations ranged from 15 to 16 for Howe Key, 5 to 10 for Knockemdown complex, and 13 to 17 for Little Pine Key. Other island complexes such as Ramrod Key, Water Key, and Annette complex maintain only small subpopulations (i.e., ≤5 individuals) and other previously inhabited island complexes (e.g., Johnson complex and Summerland Key) no longer maintain subpopulations. Key deer abundance was well below estimated carrying capacities on all outer islands, with larger natural populations occurring closest to Big Pine Key. Our results suggest that camera-based surveys offer a practical method to monitor abundance and population trends of Key deer on outer islands. Our study is the first to estimate Key deer abundance in these areas using technically structured model-based methods and provides managers with current and baseline information regarding Key deer subpopulations.
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Vol. 72 • No. 2