ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Pets and Animals»
  • Animal Care & Safety

Key Deer

Updated on April 12, 2011

A Look into the Rare Deer Subspecies from the Florida Keys

The Florida Key Deer in one word is tiny. It's the size of a medium-sized dog, confined to a small area of the Florida Keys, and numbers in only about 700-800. These numbers make it an endangered species. A subspecies of Virginia White Tailed Deer, it is the smallest of its kind. The origin of the deer is unknown, however it is popular belief that a variation of the deer migrated over a land bridge created by the Wisconsin Glacier thousands of years ago.

Photo of Key Deer by emmcnamee on flickr, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

The most distinctive feature of these deer is one thing: their size. They measure only about 30" tall at the most, and this is for a full-grown buck. This full-grown buck will be between 50-75 lbs. Females will be only about 2 feet tall!

Key Deer can be identified by their light brown fur coat with white spots. According to the Key Deer Research Project, the Key Deer herd has been split into semi-domesticated "urban" and "wild" deer.

Rutting (mating) season activities, spurred by the decreasing hours of daylight, begin in September, and are at their height in early October, then decreasing through November and December. It is not unusual to see breeding as late as February. Gestation period is 204 days, fawns being born April through June. Fawns will weigh 2 to 4 pounds. The deer's antlers are dropped February through March, beginning to regrow almost immediately so that by June, bucks with 2" stubs are seen. The antler growth is completed by August, and velvet is rubbed and kicked off in early September.

Good Swimmers?

Key Deer, like most deer, can swim, and will when they need to. They can swim short distances and can hop between islands without getting too tired out. Imagine that sight!

Key Deer are located between Bahia Honda Key and Sugarloaf Key, according to most reports. Key Deer can also swim. Small amounts of brackish water can be tolerated, however, fresh water is essential for their survival. Native plants like red and white mangroves, hibiscus, or thatch palm berries remain their favorite foods of choice, however, if food is scare, they have been known to dine on non-native, decorative plants.

Key Deer give birth to approximately 1.08 doe a year on average, usually mating in the fall months. At this rate, they are increasing at about 1-3% per year.

The Key Deer is also hurricane-resistant...well, sort of.

Okay, they aren't, but read this: A report from Texas A&M that used radio collars to track movement, behavior and trends of these animals concluded that Hurricane George resulted in only one Key Deer death from drowning! If you've ever been to the Florida Keys, you know how flat the land is, and how much it can flood. This is an impressive number!

Living Amongst People

Can Key Deer and humans coexist?

Hunting of Key Deer, which brought about their endangered status, was banned in 1939. Key Deer are often unafraid of humans, due to their frequent contact with man on the small islands. Roadside feeding on Big Pine Key has contributed to luring the tiny deer towards the busy roadway, as well as concentrating the population into one small area, increasing risk for parasites and disease.

The Florida Keys, being small in size, have only one major roadway running through the middle of the islands (US Route 1), connected via bridges. The Key Deer naturally crosses this roadway frequently. This has lead to a staggering 30-40 kills per year (70% of all of the deaths of Key Deer). Though feeding is discouraged, it has been tough to enforce. Recently, an elevated roadway on Big Pine Key has been constructed, complete with a tunnel for the deer to travel under. Unfortunately, the mortality rate from roadkills has not decreased. A large fenced-in area has also been constructed.

What can you do to safely view Key Deer if you're in the area? According to keysdirectory.com, "Instead of stopping along a busy section of state highway, officials recommend that visitors travel to the north end of Key Deer Blvd. or to the east end of Watson Blvd. on No Name Key. This area is part of National Key Deer Refuge and offers safe viewing."

Did you know before reading this that Key Deer are endangered?

See results

GO SLow!

When traveling through the Florida Keys, be sure to go slow and stay alert, especially at night, when Key Deer are very active. Most Key Deer deaths are the result of car strikes, so be careful in the middle islands between Bahia Honda Key and Sugarloaf Key.

You can donate to the Key Deer Protection Alliance to help save the Key Deer from extinction. The Key Deer Protection Alliance believes that presentation of factual information will foster positive attitudes toward current and future protective measures for the deer.

You can also donate to FAVOR, Friends and Volunteers of Refuges here. The Mission of FAVOR - Florida Keys is to support the National Wildlife Refuges of the Florida Keys through Education, Volunteerism, Non-Adversarial Advocacy and Fundraising.

Please note I am not affiliated with these organizations, but fully support their causes!

Florida's Key Deer
Florida's Key Deer

Learn more about Florida's Key Deer!

 

P.S. - You can also find the author of this page on Tumblr.

Seen a Key Deer? Been to the Florida Keys? - Leave your comments here about the rare Key Deer!

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Kiwisoutback profile image
      Author

      Kiwisoutback 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @Lady Lorelei: They are really easy to spot on the few Florida Keys where they reside. There aren't many places they can go. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      Deer are such gentle creatures (unless provoked lol) and so beautiful. We have largely whitetail deer here so I have never seen a Key deer but they certainly are typical looking other than their size. I love having the deer wander by.

    • mjtaylor lm profile image

      mjtaylor lm 5 years ago

      I used to live on Big Pine and saw them all the time. Nice job on the lens!

    • WilliamPower profile image

      WilliamPower 5 years ago

      I've never seen them.

    • flicker lm profile image

      flicker lm 5 years ago

      Beautiful deer! I've only seen the White-tailed Deer we have in the Northeast. The Key Deer are similar in appearance, but sooo much smaller. :)

    • GonnaFly profile image

      Jeanette 6 years ago from Australia

      So cute! This lens has been blessed and added to my animal alphabet lens.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      We were in the Keys 2 years ago and saw the deer. We spent a whole day at Bahia Honda Key, it was glorious.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 6 years ago

      I got to know these cute little rascals UP close and personal many years ago when I lived briefly on Big Pine Key with my mom and stepfather. They were rather "rampant" there at that time. Always strolling by in the wee hours of the morning to nibble on mom's blossoms and things! Cute.

    • stacy mcdaniel profile image

      stacy mcdaniel 7 years ago

      Nice lens! I have never seen a key deer before, they are so pretty. I havent been to the Florida Keys. We went to Destin, Florida for vacation back in 2007, it was so beautiful. I would love to visit the keys someday.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Great lens ! My husband and Eagle Scout son went on a high adventure trip with the Boy Scouts to Sea Base located down in the keys. The scouts slept on the beach at times and my husband was amazed at how friendly these little deer were. Interacting with them was a highlight of their trip !

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 8 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      I had no idea about these little deer. Such small numbers. We usually have a proliferation of deer on the island near here and they open it up in the fall to hunters to cull them. It sickens me that we can't find better options for over population.

    • profile image

      GrowWear 8 years ago

      Very nice lens. Loved reading more about these little guys.

    • Andy-Po profile image

      Andy 8 years ago from London, England

      Cute. I have hundreds of deer roaming around just a few hundred yards away from my house (Richmond Park in London) but they are big Red and Fallow deer. We also have a fairly small deer in England: the Roe deer, but unfortunately not in my back-garden.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Another beautiful lens. I think the UK equivalent to the Key Deer are probably Red Deer - my parents have red deer living just a few yards from their back gate and they are often seen just after dawn.

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L. B. 8 years ago from Covington, LA

      Another great animal lens. I've never been to the Keys, but would love to go just to see the Key Deer. Welcome to the Naturally Native Squids group. Don't forget to add your lens link to the appropriate plexo and vote for it. Lensrolled to Creatures on the Night

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      I've never seen a Key Deer, but they take cute pictures.

      Wonderful lens-very informative.

      Lizzy

    • sisterra profile image

      sisterra 9 years ago

      I love your animal lenses. The photos are beautiful.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 9 years ago from Royalton

      The Purple Gallinules just flew over to check out your lens. We have never seen a Key Deer. Have any of you deer seen us?

    • profile image

      flowski lm 9 years ago

      I had never heard about Key Deer, thanks for the information. They are so cute!

    • Classic LM profile image

      Classic LM 9 years ago

      Excellent work here! Thanks for submitting this to my group Nature and Environment. I look forward to reading more of your work!

    • Signhappy profile image

      Signhappy 9 years ago

      I loved this lens. We have a deer "problem" at our city park. To me it is a blessing to see these beautiful creatures up close, not a problem. Who cares if they eat a few flowers! 5 stars for your lens.

    • EvieJewelry profile image

      EvieJewelry 9 years ago

      We have the same problems here on the Outer Banks with people interacting with the wild horses " living amongst people " 5*

    • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

      Nathalie Roy 9 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

      From the store board with love!!