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Key West
National Wildlife Refuge

28950 Watson Boulevard
Big Pine Key, FL   33043
E-mail: keydeer@fws.gov
Phone Number: 305-872-0774
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
The many small islands (keys) of the Key West NWR provide rest areas for migrating birds
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Key West National Wildlife Refuge

Key West National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds and other wildlife. This refuge was the first established in the Florida Keys and one of the earliest refuges in the United States. The refuge encompasses more than 200,000 acres with only 2,000 acres of land. The area is home to more than 250 species of birds and is important for sea turtle nesting. The islands are predominately mangrove with a few beaches and salt ponds.

Getting There . . .
The refuge is accessible only by boat. However, the refuge is administered as part of the National Key Deer Refuge headquartered on Big Pine Key, which is 100- miles south of Miami. The visitor center is located 1/4-mile north of the traffic light on Key Deer Boulevard in the Big Pine Key Shopping Plaza. The visitor center can be reached at 305-872-0774.

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All of the islands in the refuge are designated as a part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Designated wilderness areas are managed to minimize human impacts and influences and to let natural processes occur without intervention. The refuge limits human use and influence in order to preserve the quality, character, and integrity of these protected wilderness lands.

Refuge beaches are important nesting areas for Green, Hawksbill, and Loggerhead sea turtles. Beaches on the refuge islands are very narrow and provide limited area for sea turtles to nest, thus human access is restricted. Nests are also much shallower than on mainland beaches since turtles create nests that will not be inundated by water at high tides. Walking on top of these nests can break the eggs contained within.

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Management Activities
Key West NWR focuses management programs on maintaining regional biodiversity that is necessary to sustain diverse assemblages of flora and fauna. Primary programs include wildlife population monitoring, sea turtle nesting surveys, and invasive exotic plant control.

Wildlife population monitoring consists of conducting nesting and spot surveys in order to investigate increasing or decreasing population trends. Monitoring focuses on federally-listed species such as piping plover and bald eagle as well as regionally significant species such as great white heron, reddish egret and white-crowned pigeon. Birds in the refuge are doing well as evidenced by stable or increasing populations and nest numbers.

Sea turtle nests are surveyed each year to track nesting and reproduction of Green, Hawksbill, and Loggerhead sea turtles. There are few beaches in the refuge suitable for sea turtle nesting, thus there are typically less than 50 nests found each year. Green sea turtles nests are increasing which is a positive sign since green sea turtle activity had not changed in several years. The low number of nests makes it difficult to determine nesting trends, but activity appears to be stable.

Control of invasive exotic vegetation is an important management activity. The colonization of islands by exotic plants such as Asiatic colubrina drastically reduces wildlife use. Exotic species do not provide suitable nesting or food resources, and these species exclude important native plant species. Exotic plant control is working well on the refuge and keeping habitats more viable for wildlife.