Florida Keys: A Visit to the National Key Deer Refuge in Big Pine Key
21 May 2018
National Key Deer Refuge
Established in 1957, the National Key Deer Refuge protects and preserves the national interest of the Key deer and other wildlife resources in the Florida Keys. Located in the lower Keys, the National Key Deer Refuge spans approximately 9,200 acres of land, including pine rockland forests, tropical hardwood hammocks, freshwater wetlands, salt marsh wetlands, mangrove forests, and beach berms.
The leaves, fruits, berries, and flowers of over 150 varieties of trees found in the refuge are food for the smallest subspecies of the North American white-tailed deer – coined “Key deer”.
Excess poaching and habitat loss lead to a drastic reduction in the Key deer population in the 1950s. Listing the Key deer as an endangered species in 1967 by the Refuge has allowed for the protection and recovery of the deer population.
The National Key Deer Refuge is not only home to Key deer. It is also home to 23 endangered and threatened plant and animal species. You are allowed to go saltwater fishing, observe the wildlife, photography, and learn all about the refuge.
We found this one just grazing by the side of the road. We got out of our vehicles to take pictures and video. I couldn’t believe it did;t run away from us. We didn’t attempt to go to close, but we did stay for about 15 minutes, and it just kept eating! It must really be used to tourists hanging around.
Other Animals Found in the National Key Deer Refuge
The perfect conditions of the National Key Deer Refuge allow many endangered species to live without being bothered. They are an integral part of the ecosystem.
Some of the species are: Bartram’s Hairstreak Butterfly, Lower Keys Marsh Rabbit, Osprey, White Ibis, Peregrine Falcon, Double-Crested Cormorant, Royal Tern, Mangrove Cuckoo, Red Rat Snake, Black Racer, Indigo Snake, Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, Rim Rock Crowned Snake, Key Ringneck Snake, Carolina/Green Anole, Six-Lined Racerunner, Florida Keys Mole Skink, Reef Gecko, Florida Box Turtle, Striped Mud Turtle, Green Treefrog, Southern Leopard Frog, Eastern Narrow-mouthed Toad, American Alligator, American Crocodile
Location and Hours
National Key Deer Refuge is located at:
179 Key Deer Blvd
Big Pine Key, Florida 33043
Phone: (305) 872-0774
Open Monday to Friday 9:00am to 4:00pm, Weekends 10:00am to 3:00pm (when volunteers available)
Get Social with National Key Deer Refuge