How Florida Key Deer
  Live With Their Human Neighbors

Respect for the Key Deer is crucial





Florida Everglades


How Key Deer and People
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The current trend is that the herd is stable and increasing in some areas. Just as important, the general health of the herd appears to be quite good in most sections.

The herd health is declining, however, near residential areas where a lot of feeding by people goes on--even though such feeding is illegal. Feeding by humans creates several problems.

First, it causes the deer to concentrate in an area instead of dispersing through a wide variety of habitats, as they should. Furthermore, the normal Key deer diet is an extremely varied one that includes more than 150 different varieties of plants. There is no one food they nibble on more than others.

In housing areas, the deer have only grass and a few sweet tasting ornamental bushes to browse on. People add lettuce, cabbage, carrots and other store-bought foods which, in fact, may be too good for the deer.

By concentrating in a limited area where the living is easy, parasites increase dramatically on the deer's skin and in their digestive system. In comparison, Key deer that roam more freely have few if any such parasites.

Deer that are accustomed to being fed will sometimes also eat out of trash cans. If they find something appetizing still in its plastic wrap, they sometimes consume both the food and the plastic, a true diet of death, since the plastic blocks the intestines and invariably causes mortality.

Furthermore, the deer that stay crowded together are much more susceptible to contracting any disease that might break out in the herd. Nothing like this has yet happened, but what is of concern is the endemic deer virus the herd does carry and which could become aggressive during a stressful period, such as a drought or a hurricane.

Although it may be common for white-tails in other parts of the country to "gang" together, particularly during winter, Key deer normally stay fairly isolated from one another.

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