National Key Deer Refuge

Once you cross the bridge to Big Pine Key, it’s time to slow down.  This is the heart of key deer country, home of the National Key Deer Refuge.   Slow speed limits are enforced to protect the deer because they have little fear of humans or cars.

keydeer_mombabyThey’ve been fed too much by tourists, and they often approach people curiously, hoping for a handout.  Does protect their fawns a little more cautiously.  It’s rare to see a little one with spots.  The fawn I saw on this past trip was hopping around a grassy area, oblivious to me taking photos from behind a fence.  His mother wasn’t oblivious.  She gave him a little nudge to move along.  No bigger than my cat, he hobbled away on his new legs.


I like to visit the key deer by bike.  From Big Pine Key, cross Old Wooden Bridge and you’ll find yourself on the less-inhabited No Name Key.  Key deer criss-cross the road all the time, but they’re especially active at dawn and dusk.  There are also lots of hiking trails around the island.  You’ll see families of deer napping under shady trees.

There are only an estimated 600 deer left.  Habitat loss and cars are still major threats.  So go visit the key deer on your next trip to the Florida Keys, and drive slow.  You’ll have a better chance of seeing a fawn that way, too.


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