Monday, November 23, 2015

Key Deer

If you are visiting Florida and are staying near the Everglades or on the Keys, you owe yourself to visit the National Key Deer Refuge located on Big Pine Key.  The reason it is the home for the endangered key deer, which is a subspecies of the white-tailed deer.  Key deer is now found only on the keys of southern Florida.  Its range used to be from key Vaca to Key West.  Their present range is Big Pine Key and surrounding islands.  In 1940, the estimated animals were only 50 but with the establishment of the refuge in 1957.  The population has increased and stabilize that between 700 and 800 deer.  Key deer are still listed as endangered.
Sunrise at Big Pine K

The best time to view of is around sunrise and sunset.  Although they can be seen at other times during the day.  A big problem is illegal feeding of the deer and many deer have lost the fear of man. They feed along the roads and will approach you if you stop to photograph them looking for handouts.
Key Deer
Key Deer
Key Deer
Key Deer  came right up to me looking for a handout
Key Deer in Backyard
The following information is from the US Fish and Wildlife Service information sheet on the National Key Deer Refuge.
"The Key deer are the smallest of the 28 subspecies of Virginia white-tailed deer. Bucks range from 28-32” at the shoulder and weigh an average of 80 lbs. Does stand 24-28” at the shoulder and weigh an average of 65 lbs.
Why are the Key deer endangered? Low population numbers, development pressures, habitat loss,
and threats from hurricanes have all been important in the listing of this species as endangered. Currently,
illegal roadside feeding contributes to road kills which account for 70 percent of the annual mortality."

While we you were observing the buck deer feeding across the road, a woman on a bicycle road right by the deer were out bothering it a bit.  You could tell it was habituated to people.

Big Pine Key is located approximately 100 miles south of Miami, Florida and 30 miles north of Key West Florida.
Map of Big Pine Key