store fat to keep them warm.
Key Deer fawns weigh from 2 to 4 poundsat
birth and their hoof prints are the size of a thumbnail. They grow to
a height of between
24 and 28 inches with the does weighing from 45 to 65 pounds and the bucks
from 55 to 75 pounds. Other than their small size, the Key Deer
are much like Virginia white tailed deer that are commonplace in northern
The Keys does and fawns form a family band that travels together for life.
The oldest doe leads the band that consists of her fawns and their fawns.
The bucks keep to themselves until they mate with the does during their
rutting season from September to December. Most of the Key Deer are found
on Big Pine Key and No Name Key, but the deer can swim and sometimes they
visit nearby islands. This species of deer is found in no other place
in the world.
In the 1930s, conservationists estimated that only 30 or 40 miniature
deer still existed. Pulitzer prize-winning artist J.N. "Ding"
Darling brought national attention to the plight of those deer in a 1934
cartoon. The cartoon showed a deer fleeing big dogs and gun toting poachers.
After seeing this cartoon many children and adults wrote to their congressmen
pleading in behalf of the deer. Because of those pleas, the Boone and
Crockett Club in New York City and the National Wildlife Federation gave
money to hire a warden to patrol the Key Deer habitat. Jack Watson, refuge
manager during the 1960s and 1970s made protecting the Key deer his chief
Key deer face many dangers. U.S. Highway 1 runs through their habitat.
Road kill is the number one cause of deer deaths. Big Pine Key has a daytime
speed limit of 45 miles per hour and a nighttime limit of 35 miles per
hour. The speed limits are strictly enforced. Recently, culverts have
been constructed that run under the highway in order to give the deer
safe passage from one side of the highway to the other. Fence posts are
in place, and fencing material is at the ready. Workers plan to fence
a short distance on each side of the highway where deer are known to cross,
hoping to encourage the deer to use the new underground route. Whether
or not this will work is yet to be seen. Optimists say it will work. Pessimists
say it will only provide a dry sleeping place for vagrants.
addition to highway dangers, the deer also face the danger of the man-made
canals that engineers have dug to allow residents