It’s the season to see Key Deer
07/31/2014 12:00 AM
07/30/2014 4:57 PM
Dear to the hearts of many are the miniature deer that exist only in the Florida Keys. Fully grown, these Key Deer stand only two to three feet high, but resemble their bigger siblings in every respect: Stags grow a full set of antlers, does charm with their limpid eyes.
Most are found on Big Pine Key, much of which is under the protection of the National Key Deer Refuge. Visitors usually can spot the tiny deer, which have no natural predators and are relatively tame, on the side of the road along Key Deer Boulevard on Big Pine. The month of August and the early fall rut season are good times to see the deer. Best times of day are two hours after sunrise and two hours before sunset. One also can spot Key Deer on No-Name Key, which is reached by Wilder Road from Big Pine.
It is illegal to feed the animals and the refuge advises visitors to view them from a distance and observe the speed limit, which is strictly enforced. The total deer population is estimated around 800, but road kills take the lives of more than 100 of the endangered animals every year.
No deer are kept at the refuge headquarters, which is on Watson Boulevard on Big Pine, but it has information and exhibits. Good directions and information is accessible on www.floridawildlifeviewing.com. Refuge information: 305-872-2239, www.fws.gov/nationalkeydeer.• Danger in the sky. A new interactive exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex called Great Balls of Fire explores the risk that asteroids, comets and meteorites present to our planet. Past asteroid impacts are believed to have wiped out some forms of life on Earth several times, notably 66 million years ago, resulting in the extinction of dinosaurs. One feature of the new exhibit, Asteroid Encounter, has guests board a simulated spaceship that takes them to Jupiter and the asteroid belt. www.kennedyspacecenter.com.
• Diving for scallops. It’s scalloping season, and in Florida the place to capture the tasty mollusks is the Big Bend region of the Gulf Coast. From Homosassa north to Port St. Joe are sites where you can harvest scallops by wading in grass flats, snorkeling or working from a boat. A number of boat captains in ports along the coast offer scalloping outings. A Florida saltwater fishing license is required and there are certain other rules and regulations. (See http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/bay-scallops/. This year, the season ends Sept. 25. General information: www.scallophunter.com.
• Pet-friendly places. Taking your pet along on a vacation trip in Florida? Before you go, check if your hotel or other accommodation accepts pets, and know that you may have to pay an extra fee as well as a cleaning fee. Some fees are substantial. Many also have limits on pet size and on what kinds of pets are allowed. A good source that lists pet-friendly accommodations in Florida, their costs and terms is http://hotels.petswelcome.com/florida/.
• Concert series. Busch Gardens Tampa winds up its summer Saturday night concert series in August with these headliners: Taking Back Sunday on Saturday and The All-American Rejects Aug. 16. www.seaworldparks.com/buschgardens-tampa.
• Imagine that: Boca Raton will be the first site in the country to display a unique interactive work of art called “imag_ne” by Australian artist Emma Anna. The work, which has a gap where the second “i” should be, invites onlookers to complete the word. It measures 13.7 feet wide, 3 feet high, 1.5 feet deep, weighs 550 pounds and looks like a line of giant Scrabble tiles. It will be at Boca Raton’s Sanborn Square Oct. 1-Nov. 30.
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