For the deer, raccoons, rabbits, foxes, bobcats and other critters in the Everglades, it is the Great Flood of '94. And unfortunately there hasn't been an ark to save them from drowning, starvation and hungry alligators.

"Devastating. Unprecedented," Laura Richards, a biologist with the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, said Thursday.She keeps an eye on the Everglades, that 30-mile-wide river of grass that flows through South Florida.

"The good Lord let us have a little more rain than we usually have," said Walt Brandon, of the Florida Wildlife Federation, an environmental group. "We had over 70 inches of rain in three months. I've been here all my life and I've never seen anything like this," said Brandon, 65.

Miccosukee Indians, a small tribe that calls the Everglades home, say flooding was thinning out animal populations long before the first white man showed his face in Florida, and that the animals will bounce back this time, too.

"Everything in nature depends on the survival of the fittest. The ones in best health will survive," said F.K. Jones, the wildlife administrator for the 700-member tribe.

Richards said the extensive flooding has killed up to 80 percent of the 400 white tail deer in one popular deer area called Alligator Alley. There were about 1,100 deer before flooding reached critical stages three months ago in the 700,000 acre Everglades Wildlife Management Area.

The Everglades, often referred to mistakenly as a swamp, is actually a large area of fresh water that flows into the Bay of Florida off the southern tip of the state. It is normally so shallow you could walk all the way across it.

Hip waders wouldn't do you much good now, though.

"The tree islands that the deer usually go to during high water are under water, so they've had nothing to eat and are dying of starvation or drowning or are being eaten by alligators," Richards said.

Environmentalists have longed blamed such flooding on man's meddling with the environment, through building of canals, dikes and levees to try to control the flow of water and make more room for more people.

Now the state game commission has asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District to start drawing off the water.