The endangered Key deer is the smallest subspecies of the North American white-tailed deer. They are the only large herbivore in the Florida Keys and can be found in every habitat, where they feed on dozens of native plant species. Despite the absence of predators, Key deer retain the characteristic behavior of raising their tails when alarmed, revealing the white fur underneath. Competing males joust for females during the rut by locking horns. Breeding occurs in the fall; with the majority of white–spotted fawns born in the late spring and summer months.
Poaching and habitat loss had reduced the number of Key deer to only a few dozen animals by the 1950’s, but establishment of the Refuge and subsequent listing of the deer as endangered in 1967 has allowed for protection and a dramatic recovery of the species. The deer now number close to a thousand, and are most concentrated on Big Pine and No Name Keys, where an estimated 75% of the population lives. This high density of deer and proximity to homes and roads results in motor vehicle collisions, especially at night when the deer are more active.
Human interactions with deer such as illegal feeding have conditioned many deer to approach humans, leading to unhealthy conditions. Please help the Key deer by not feeding them, and help us spread the word about how important this is to maintaining a healthy deer population.
Facts About Key Deer
The largest males typically stand only about 1 meter at the shoulder and weigh a maximum of around 85 lbs. Females are smaller, weighing on average 65 pounds.
Key deer inhabit 20-25 islands in the lower Florida Keys, ranging from No Name and Big Pine Key westward to the Sugarloaf Keys.
Key deer feed on over 100 different species of native plants; you can help keep the key deer population healthy by not feeding them.