Small Living Space Helped Shrink the Key Deer
deer are classified as a subspecies of the much larger
Virginia white-tailed deer. The Key deer is
the smallest of the 28 subspecies of Virginia white-tailed deer.
It's believed Key deer probably migrated from the mainland thousands of years ago during the last glacial period when a land bridge existed, then were isolated as the sea rose to create the stepping stone of islands known as the Florida Keys.
A shipwrecked Spanish explorer named Fontaneda recorded the first account
of Key deer. The deer were considered a naturally occurring
species by both Spaniards and Indians, who hunted the animals
In summer, the wet season, the does will sometimes swim to other keys that have limited amounts of water for fawning purposes. One doe, in fact, was recorded swimming almost a half-mile back to Big Pine daily for fresh water, then returning to her fawn on a nearby island.
help increase year-round habitat on some of these outer islands, Key
deer refuge personnel have dug water holes and put
out "guzzlers" which hold 500 to 1,000 gallons of rain water.
Due to their isolation, Key deer have evolved
in several special ways.