The National Key Deer Refuge is located in the lower Florida Keys encompassing 25 islands, the largest of which, is Big Pine Key. The habitat consists of a patchwork of pine and mangrove forest, hardwood hammocks, freshwater wetlands, and marine estuaries.
Key Deer, the smallest sub-species of White-Tailed Deer, are found on these islands. The small size of these deer is a result of the limited availability of food and freshwater on the islands. The deer are about the size of large dogs with bucks averaging 80 pounds and does about 64 pounds. Key Deer are listed as endangered by the Federal government because their population is low and remains under threat of extinction from human interaction. The current population is estimated to be between 600 and 750 deer. Speed limits on both Big Pine and No Name Keys are strictly enforced to protect the deer. Even so, 10 to 15 percent of the population may be killed by cars in any single year.
The deer are best observed at dawn or dusk at the far end of Key Deer Blvd. and along Long Beach Road on Big Pine Key or along Watson Blvd. on No Name Key.