Torrential Rain Causing Big Problems For Everglades Wildlife

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — All that rain in the beginning of June is causing big problems in the Everglades. It’s flooded.

“It’s about three and a half feet now,” Florida Wildlife Commissioner Ron Bergeron demonstrated as he stood in the Everglades, showing water up to his waist. “In a normal beginning of rainy season it would be below my knees.”

More than 20 inches of rain has put the water level two feet higher than normal.

“Imagine what it’s like being a white tail deer or a wading bird even,” said Florida Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Executive Director Nick Wiley. He too was standing in deep water.

And there’s the problem. With the water so high, fur-bearing animals have few places to go to stay dry. Many Islands in the Everglades are underwater.

Bergeron spoke to CBS4’s Ted Scouten from Deer Island – that is on some of the highest ground in the central Everglades.

“We’re about 2 foot above schedule for the beginning of the rainy season,” said Bergeron. “At the tail end of the dry season, this whole island would be dry. This island now is 3/4 underwater with just very little in the center for fur bearing animals.”

When flood waters hang around longer than 60 days, that’s when animals are in critical danger.

“You start seeing animals stresses,” said Wiley. “They run out of food. They can’t live that close to each other on these small islands. They need to be able to disperse out. They can’t. They start dying. We start losing wildlife.”

Since those heavy June rains, three times more water has been flowing into the Everglades than out. That’s finally stabilizing.  An emergency order is allowing more water to be pushed out. It’s critical to lower levels quickly since we’re in storm season.

“You can understand if we had one tropical storm our water levels could easily be overnight up to my neck,” said Bergeron, demonstrating as he stood in the water.

Barring any catastrophic storms or hurricanes, the water should be down back to normal levels by December, but if there’s a storm all bets are off.

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