Key Deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium)

Origin: Florida Keys
Sighted at: Big Pine Key, Florida


A key deer! This subspecies of white-tailed deer is an endangered species found only in the Florida Keys. It’s thought that the deer swam to the islands long ago looking for food, and evolved as a smaller breed to account for the reduced space available on the islands.

Because key deer are endangered, they’re protected by the government, making interactions with them a legal problem for Keys residents. As such, they’re allowed free roam of the yards around people’s homes. Indeed, I found this very deer (and several others) in the neighborhood near “Blue Hole” park in Big Pine.

Most people living in the Keys who have to put up with deer wrap their foliage in protective wire fencing so that the deer can’t denude the trees and bushes. There’s also a lot of signage on the main highway that forces drivers to slow down, lest they hit one with their car.