National Key Deer Refuge

October 28, 2010
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Spring Break road trip 029

Continuing south on my road trip around Florida, I drive down A1A until I eventually reach Hwy. 1 and the wonderful, beautiful, laid back set of islands known as the Florida Keys.

The welcome to Key Largo was a huge relief, and now I knew I was almost to my overall destination for the road trip, Key West.

But, I have to caution. Don’t skip all of the other great Keys just to get to Key West.

There are several great outdoor opportunities to see while traveling South to “Mile Zero.”   One of these is the National Key Deer Refuge located primarily on Big Pine Key.

National Key Deer Refuge

The National Key Deer Refuge is home to a tiny, cute little animal known as the Key Deer.

800px-Key_deer_male

– Unfortunately, I couldn’t get any great shots of the Key Deer (they move fast), but this one I found from here.

These deer look a lot like white tailed deer, but are much smaller in size, and endangered. If you want to see these deer, there is only one place in the world to see them in the wild, and that is on Big Pine Key.

While traveling down Hwy. 1, you really can’t miss the refuge. Large signs and a long fence running parallel with the road indicate Key Deer  are nearby. Please…DRIVE SLOW as the signs request. Too many of these deer are killed each year in car accidents, and these deer will dart in front of your car. I saw four deer on my trip, and 3 out of 4, darted right out in front of me. With only around 800 in the wild, even one a year is too many.

To see the deer, there are really two opportune “locations.”  As you enter Big Pine Key, a sign on the right will indicate the direction of the Visitor’s Center. Turning on the road, you will soon see a forked road. The Visitor’s Center is in a shopping center that actually sets between the forks, about 100 or so yards down the road (so either direction can get you to the Center).

If you go right on the road, you can head towards No Name Key. Again…DRIVE SLOW. Watch the hedges on each side of the road, and you’ll likely see a deer by the time you reach the end of No Name Key.

Look especially hard near the homes you see, as I have been told that the deer like to hang out around them.

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If you go left, follow the road all the way to its end. There are some developmental sites at the end of the road, and the deer like to hang out near this construction as well.

Finally, I suggest also checking out the Blue Hole for some potential views of other wildlife. Especially if you are into reptiles and bird life. There is a short hiking loop around the Blue Hole Lake with a number of openings for wildlife viewing.

Blue Hole in Key Deer Refuge

Directions:

1. Hwy. 1 South to Big Pine Key.

2. Turn Right on Key Deer Blvd.

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