After surviving habitat destruction and over-hunting in the 1940s as well as their recent brush with the deadly screwworm, the key deer of South Florida were threatened again this week.

On Sunday morning, a broken tail light captured the attention of a Monroe County Sherrif’s deputy.  Engaging in what the deputy thought to be a routine traffic stop was anything but as he immediately noticed a pair of deer hog-tied in the back seat of the car.  Upon further investigation, a third deer was also found tied up inside the trunk of the vehicle.

Immediately calling the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the deputy awaited their arrival before attempting to handle the endangered deer. With a stable population of between 700 and 800 deer, there are many conservation measures in place in South Florida to keep these animals healthy and protected.

As wildlife officials began freeing the deer, two ran off while the third required some evaluation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, according to reports.

The men were identified as 18-year-old Erik Yosmany Damas Acosta of Miami Gardens; and 23-year-old Tumani Anthony Younge, of Port St. Lucie.  According to the arrest reports, the men told investigators they simply wanted to take pictures with the deer.  It is believed that one of the deer likely kicked out the tail light of the vehicle, which initially caught the attention of the responding officer.

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Erik Yosmany Damas Acosta and Tumani Anthony Younge

“It’s very possible the [deer] in the trunk kicked out the taillight,” a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) told the Sun-Sentinel. “Whether he did or not, I don’t know. But that’s what the deputy stopped [the driver] for.”

The two were charged with animal cruelty and each face up to five years behind bars and a fine of up to $5,000.