Ridiculously Adorable tiny endangered key deer steal your heart (and your sandwich if you aren't careful)
Key deer roam the lower Florida Keys. The National Key Deer Refuge is a sanctuary for these endangered animals.
Key deer roam everywhere on Big Pine Key and the neighboring No Name Key. They are at home in the mangroves and the pine rocklands and hardwood hammocks.
Key Deer are tiny compared to deer on the mainland. Adult males weigh between 55 and 75 pounds. Adult females weigh between 44 and 64 pounds typically.
Deer should be shy around humans, but many have been fed by humans and will approach people. Feeding key deer is tempting but it is bad for them.
Key deer roam the streets and the yards of homes. They are vulnerable to car strikes and cars kill an average of between 125 and 150 Key Deer a year. You can help them by slowing down when you drive in the Keys.
There is something beguiling about the long lashes of a Key Deer.
Key Deer blend in well in the local vegetation and they can be hard to spot if you aren't paying attention.
Key Deer are inquisitive creatures. Those that have been hand fed can be quite pushy trying to get you to feed them.
Did I mention they can get pushy? This is the result of too much human interaction from being fed.
Key Deer feed on mangroves and thatch berries which make up most of their diet.
Key Deer have no natural predators on the islands.
Screwworms were discovered in the Key Deer population in 2016 which led to the euthanasia of 121 infected deer. Screwworms are fly larvae that enter an open wound and then eat the flesh of the animal from the inside out, killing the animals. This has further reduced the population.
There are only 700 to 800 Key Deer in the world. This is a very small population of animals.
You can help the Key Deer by not feeding them and by slowing down when driving through the lower Keys.
If you are lucky enough to see a Key Deer, take a picture and enjoy the sighting but don't approach them.
Even if they are ridiculously cute.
Good places to see the Key Deer are Big Pine Key and No Name Key. Just remember to drive slowly.
Drive slowly and watch for them to dart out on the road.
If you are very lucky, you may see one in the ocean at dawn.