Florida Keys: A Visit to the National Key Deer Refuge in Big Pine Key

Florida Keys: A Visit to the National Key Deer Refuge in Big Pine Key
21 May 2018

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Disclosure: Transportation to the National Key Deer Refuge was covered by The Florida Keys. All opinions are my own.

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.

Key Deer feature

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”.

Key Deer refuge entrance

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.

Key Deer information sign

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

Key Deer looking at information sign

Location and Hours

National Key Deer Refuge is located at:
179 Key Deer Blvd
Big Pine Key, Florida 33043
Phone: (305) 872-0774
Email: keydeer@fws.gov

Open Monday to Friday 9:00am to 4:00pm, Weekends 10:00am to 3:00pm (when volunteers available)

Key Deer

Get Social with National Key Deer Refuge

You can follow National Key Deer Refuge on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Big Daddy

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Craig Silva

Craig is a passionate and seasoned travel, food, and lifestyle writer, whose words paint vivid pictures of the world's most captivating destinations. His work not only inspires others to embark on their own adventures but also fosters a deep appreciation for the beauty and diversity of our world. He captures the essence of each locale, offering readers a glimpse into the cultures, landscapes, cuisine, and experiences that make travel so enriching. Craig is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and the International Travel Writers Alliance (ITWA). If you are a PR agency or brand and would like Craig to review a travel destination, vehicle, restaurant, product or service, please send him an email.


  1. This sounds like a very family friendly place to visit! I love places dedicated to wildlife :)

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