survivors since the Ice Age, the lives of these tough little Floridians
are in peril because of us . . .
THE DIMINUTIVE DEER OF THE FLORIDA KEYS
of years ago during the Ice Age, the Keys formed a solid landmass until
the Wisconsin Glacier melted. The rising water covered much of the land.
The Keys are the highest points of land that remained after the glacier
melted. The rest of the land now lies under water. Scientists think the
deer were trapped here and that they had two choices--make do or die.
The deer chose to make do.
found the first record of Key deer in a ship's logbook during Columbus's
fourth voyage to the New World. Fifty years after that, a sailor shipwrecked
in the Keys wrote about the deer in his diary, telling that the natives
used the deer for food. Another 300 years passed before pioneers settled
in the Keys and gave them picturesque names such as Little Torch, Big
Torch, Sugarloaf, Big Pine, Boca Chica. Those pioneers thought the islands
offered an unlimited supply of game, but the deer soon became scarce and
they grew smaller.
It takes a lot of water to make things grow. Big Pine Key is different
from the other Keys. It offers one of the few sources of fresh water in
the islands. Oolite, a form of limestone, forms the land on Big Pine Key,
and it's full of sinkholes. Although the sinkholes hold fresh rainwater,
there's very little of it available. Scientists believe that the shortage
of water holds the deer to a small size. Also, they know that many species
of animals grow smaller in warm climates. The deer in the Keys don't need