Tuesday, July 26, 2011

yes deer

Out on No Name Key the other day, I came across this family of Key Deer and got curious. . .

"Key Deer" (Odocoileus virginianus clavium) are an endangered species that live only in the Florida Keys. They are a subspecies of the White-tailed deer (O. virginianus)."

It is thought Key Deer migrated to the Florida Keys from the mainland (where else), over a land bridge during the Wisconsin glaciation that happened from about 110,000 to 10,000 years ago and are not found anywhere else
on the planet.

The earliest known written reference to Key Deer comes from Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda, a Spanish sailor who was shipwrecked in the Florida Keys and captured by Native Americans in the 1550s. (talk about no damn luck at all)

The deer were hunted as a food supply by native tribes, passing sailors, and early settlers but the hunting of Key Deer was banned in 1939 when, after widespread poaching and habitat destruction, their population dropped to less than 50 of the critters.

The National Key Deer Refuge, a federally administered National Wildlife Refuge operated by the Wildlife Service, was established in 1957.
The refuge is located in the lower Florida Keys and currently consists of approximately 9,200 acres of pine forests, tropical hardwood hammocks, freshwater wetlands, salt marsh wetlands and mangrove forests on Big Pine Key, No Name Key and several smaller uninhabited islands.
(It turns out, Key Deer can swim between islands.)

There is also a private organization, the Key Deer Protection Alliance, that takes a hands-on approach to helping protect the Key Deer.

Thanks to all these good efforts, the Key Deer population has grown back to between 500 and 800 critters.

Still, living so close to humans, the Key Deer have little natural fear of humans so, as they roam around unabashed, the biggest threat to them is being turned into road kill if they try to cross US.1. The annual estimates are 30 - 40 kills per year.

So if you're driving through Big Pine and see those brown road signs that say 30 MPH, just think "yes deer" and slow the hell down. You might just save a couple of bucks. (pun intended)

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