Animals marooned on Everglades tree islands are dying

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Animals marooned on Everglades tree islands are dying

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Thomas Cordy /Palm Beach Post
A view of tree islands free of Old World Climbing Fern in the northern boundaries of the Everglades in Palm Beach County, Florida.

High water levels in the Everglades have stranded animals on levees and tree islands, triggering emergency measures by water managers to drain flooded areas.

This week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers changed its water storage rules to temporarily allow for more water to be stored in water conservation areas through the fall and into the dry season.

This is the second time this summer that heavy rainfall has forced the corps to make emergency changes to account for the high water levels.

“Heavy rain since the beginning of June have caused the water levels in the conservation areas to rise to historic levels for this time of year,” corps officials said in a statement.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Commissioner “Alligator” Ron Bergeron sent a graphic letter to the corps this week, describing the conditions of animals marooned on the tree islands, levees and spoil islands.

He said huddled on higher ground, their preferred food sources are limited and they must eat less nutritious food, which increases stress.

“Over time, fat reserves become exhausted and malnutrition and death will occur,” Bergeron said. “Extended duration high-water conditions also have detrimental long-term effects on the essential foraging and nesting habitats of federally listed species such as wood storks and snail kites.”

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