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Key Deer
National Wildlife Refuge

179 key Deer Blvd.
Big Pine Key Plaza
Big Pine Key, FL   33043
E-mail: keydeer@fws.gov
Phone Number: 305-872-2239
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Three endangered species of the National Key Deer Refuge.
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Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge

The National Key Deer Refuge was established in 1957 to protect and preserve Key deer and other wildlife resources in the Florida Keys. The refuge is located in the lower Florida Keys and currently consists of approximately 9,200 acres of land that includes pine rockland forests, tropical hardwood hammocks, freshwater wetlands, salt marsh wetlands, and mangrove forests. These natural communities are critical habitat for hundreds of endemic and migratory species including 17 federally-listed species such as Key deer, lower Keys marsh rabbit, and silver rice rat.

Refuge lands that are accessible to the public are open 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset. The refuge visitor center is open Monday - Friday, 9 am - 4 pm. At times the center may be open outside the hours and on Saturdays. Directions to the visitor center are - from the traffic light on US 1, Big Pine Key , mile maker 30.3, turn onto Key Deer Blvd(gulf side). Drive 1/4 mile up Key Deer Blvd and turn right into the Big Pine Key Plaza. The Center is in the first corner. It is recommend that visitors call 305-872-0774 to confirm that the center will be open when they plan on visiting.

Getting There . . .
The National Key Deer Refuge headquarters is located on Big Pine Key which is 100-miles south of Miami and 30-miles north of Key West on Highway US-1. The refuge visitor center is located ¼-mile north of the traffic light on Key Deer Boulevard in the Big Pine Key Shopping Plaza. The administrative headquarters is located at the west end of Watson Boulevard.

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When the refuge was established, Key deer were on the brink of extinction with less than 50 deer remaining as a result of uncontrolled hunting and habitat loss. Establishment of the refuge along with habitat acquisition and law enforcement efforts has allowed the deer population to increase and stabilize. Today there are an estimated 600 Key deer located on Big Pine and No Name Keys with approximately 100 more located on surrounding islands. Key deer are endangered because the population is isolated and confined to a small geographic area. This could allow a disease outbreak or hurricane to wipe out the entire population.

The refuge is an important stopping point for thousands of migrating birds each year and an important wintering ground for many North American bird species. Notable species include piping plover, roseate tern, and peregrine falcon. The mosaic of upland and wetland habitats found in the Florida Keys are critical breeding and feeding grounds for birds, and refuge land acquisition efforts strive to add to the lands already protected.

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Management Activities
The National Key Deer Refuge focuses management efforts on maintaining regional biodiversity that is necessary to sustain the diverse assemblages of flora and fauna. Primary management programs include Key deer monitoring, prescribed burning, and invasive exotic plant control.

Management of Key deer includes census surveys and health monitoring. Census surveys are important for management since the surveys provide an excellent indication of whether the deer population is increasing or decreasing. Health monitoring is conducted simultaneously with census surveys in order to get an overall sense of the health of Key deer. Periodically, some deer are captured and checked by veterinarians for diseases. Overall, Key deer are healthy and the population is stable.

Pine rockland forests are one of the most critical habitats for Key deer and are managed through prescribed burns. Pine rocklands are burned in order to inhibit succession to tropical hardwood hammocks. Burns are scheduled to occur during times that will least affect the life history requirements of the Key deer.

Invasive exotic plants such as Brazilian pepper, lead tree, and Australian pine are controlled through mechanical and chemical means on a continual basis. Exotic plants are very detrimental to native plant communities since these species out-compete the native trees and create monotypic stands that provide no viable habitat to wildlife. Management efforts to eradicate invasive exotics have been very successful and have allowed for considerable habitat restoration on the refuge.