Key Deer Awareness Day

Founded by Florida High School Student Madison Metz in 2016, Key Deer Day raises awareness of this diminutive white tail sub-species that inhabits the Florida Keys. The gentle animals were added to the endangered list on March 11, 1967, leading to designating March 11th each year as a day to celebrate these gentle and adorable animals.

Florida's Key Deer are a unique and beloved species that have captured the hearts of locals and tourists alike. These small deer are found only in the Florida Keys, an archipelago of islands off the southern tip of Florida. The animals are one of the smallest subspecies of the North American White-tailed Deer, with adults typically weighing between 60 and 80 pounds and standing just over 2 feet tall at the shoulder.

The Key Deer are known for their gentle nature, big ears, and strikingly large eyes. They are also excellent swimmers and have adapted to their environment by eating a variety of vegetation, including mangroves, palm trees, and even poisonwood. Despite their unique characteristics, the Key Deer face significant challenges, including habitat loss, predation, and disease.

Habitat Loss

Habitat loss is perhaps the biggest threat facing the Key Deer. The Florida Keys have undergone significant development in recent years, with homes, hotels, and other structures encroaching on the deer's habitat. This development has also led to increased traffic, with many of the islands connected by narrow bridges that can be dangerous for deer trying to cross the road.

As a result of this habitat loss and fragmentation, the Key Deer population has declined significantly. At one point, the species was on the brink of extinction, with just a few dozen individuals remaining. However, conservation efforts, including the establishment of the National Key Deer Refuge in 1957, have helped to stabilize the population, which now numbers around 800 to 1,000 individuals.


Another significant threat to the Key Deer is predation. Invasive species such as the Burmese python and feral cats are known to prey on the deer, and their presence in the Florida Keys has increased in recent years. The python, in particular, has become a major problem, with some estimates suggesting that the population of the snake has increased by over 400% in the last decade.


Disease is another threat facing the Key Deer. In 2016, an outbreak of New World screwworm, a parasitic fly that feeds on the tissue of animals, was discovered in the Florida Keys. The outbreak affected not only the Key Deer, but also other wildlife species in the area. Fortunately, the outbreak was contained through the use of sterile flies, but the incident serves as a reminder of the vulnerability of the Key Deer population.

Each March 11th, help raise awareness of these wonderful animals.

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