MARATHON (CBSMiami/AP) — Florida wildlife and Monroe County officials have credited a new customs office at a Keys airport with helping to stop screwworm from infecting the endangered Key deer population.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility at Florida Keys Marathon International Airport opened shortly before wildlife officials confirmed in September that flesh-eating screwworms were killing Key deer.
The airport became a command base for efforts to stop the infestation from spreading to livestock on the mainland. Those efforts included releasing millions of male screwworm flies sterilized with radiation, which helped suppress the pest’s population.
Monroe County officials said Wednesday that two flights each week brought irradiated flies from Panama through the customs office at the airport. Sterile flies also were stored in refrigerated units at the airport.
Airport Director Thomas Henderson said the customs facility could be used for other emergencies.