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Press Release

Key Deer Killer Sentenced in Federal Court

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Florida

MIAMI – Wendy C. Kilheffer, 77, of Big Pine, Florida was sentenced today in Key West federal district court for violating the Endangered Species Act by shooting and killing a Key deer.   

On November 16, 2022, several Florida Keys residents discovered a Key deer lying on the ground with its antlers entangled in rope. Kilheffer arrived on the scene and -- despite having zero veterinary training or related experience -- decided that the deer was in distress and would not survive. Kilheffer went to her vehicle, secured a high caliber handgun, shot the deer in the head at close range, and killed it. According to witnesses, the deer’s death was not immediate.

When law enforcement later questioned Kilheffer, she denied even being at the scene. Video surveillance and eyewitness statements refuted her lie.

Kilheffer pled guilty and now has a federal conviction. She must serve one year of probation, pay a $4,000 criminal fine, complete 100 hours of community service, and strictly abide by all laws and regulations involving human interaction with the Key deer.

U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida and acting Resident Agent in Charge Robert Register of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), Office of Law Enforcement, Miami Field Office, made the announcement.

Congress enacted the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) 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.  Title 16, United States Code, Section 1532(6). The Florida Key deer is included within the list of designated endangered species, set forth in Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 17.21(c)(1).

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Miami investigated this case, with assistance from Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the National Fish & Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald prosecuted this case.   

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at or at under case number 22-cr-10023.



Public Affairs Unit

U.S. Attorney’s Office

Southern District of Florida

Updated March 28, 2023