On Big Pine Key, the Deer Are a Wee Bit Different


The Florida Keys have a flair for everything offbeat. They’re a little unexpected, a little quirky and sometimes a little magical.

Colorful roosters roam the streets and six-toed cats live at the Hemingway House. Outrageous events are common occurrences, many of which provide a grand excuse to dress in costume.

The Keys even do deer differently.

At the National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key (100 miles south of Miami and 30 miles north of Key West) you can see tiny –  and very cute – wild deer. The Key deer, as this subspecies of Virginia white-tailed deer are known, are about the size of a big dog. Bucks range from 28-32 inches at the shoulder and weigh an average of 80 pounds. Does stand 24-28 inches and weigh an average of 65 pounds.

The Refuge was established in 1957 to protect and preserve Key deer and other wildlife. It consists of 9,200 acres of critical habitat for hundreds of endemic and migratory species, including 17 federally listed species such as Key deer, lower Keys marsh rabbits and silver rice rats.

You might spot the deer grazing along the roadside, or you might have to hike back to one of their favorite watering spots to find them. But the Refuge is beautiful, the deer are cute, and it’s absolutely worth it.

Because, as Albert Einstein quoted, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. "

Happy Fact: Key deer population may have reached a low of 27 in 1957. The population has rebounded to approximately 800 today.

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