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A small deer in the trunk of a car.
Information icon One of three Key deer found in the car of two South Florida residents. Photo by USFWS.

Defendants sentenced for illegal take of endangered Key deer

Two South Florida residents, who captured and restrained three Florida Key deer on Big Pine Key, were sentenced Oct. 31, 2017, in federal court in Key West for violations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Erik Damas Acosta, 18, of Miami Gardens, and Tumani A. Younge, 23, of Tamarac, previously pled guilty for their involvement in the July 2, 2017 incident in Monroe County, Florida. United States District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez sentenced Acosta to one year in jail, followed by two years of supervised release, and ordered him to perform 200 hours of community service. Younge was sentenced to time already served, placed on 180 days of home confinement subject to electronic monitoring, given a term of supervised release of two years, and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service. The Court found that neither defendant could pay a criminal fine.

Two small deer discovered hog tied in a car.
Two Key deer discovered in the defendant’s car. Photo by USFWS.

According to court records, including a Joint Factual Statement signed by the defendants, they used food to lure the deer and captured them. The defendants tied up the deer and placed them in their vehicle. They further admitted their actions injured an adult male Key deer, including a fractured leg. The animal later had to be euthanized by authorities.

After departing the Big Pine Key area in their car, the defendants were stopped for a traffic violation by a Monroe County Sheriff’s deputy and the three deer were found in the vehicle – the adult male in the trunk, and a juvenile male and a doe on the back seat. Benjamin G. Greenberg, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; David Pharo, Resident Agent in Charge, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, Miami Field Office; and Major Alfredo Escanio, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, South Bravo Region; and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office made the announcement.

The ESA was enacted by Congress to conserve endangered and threatened species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The term “endangered species” means any species, or part thereof, which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

The smallest deer in North America, the Key deer was listed as endangered in 1967, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and partners have been working to recover the deer. There are currently an estimated 949 Key deer in the Keys.

A New World screwworm infestation in 2016 killed 135 deer, and Hurricane Irma in September 2017 killed about 21 deer.


Ken Warren, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (772) 562-3909 x323

Rob Klepper, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, (850) 617-9666

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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