How Key Deer and People
Share Big Pine Key
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.
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.
Key Deer Are Endangered
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