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.

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