Hoofed Mammals

White Tailed Key Deer Key Deer
Odocoileus virginianus clavium


Like other white-tailed deer, they are typically reddish-brown or gray-brown in color. Males grow antlers. Sometimes called the “toy deer,” the Key deer is the smallest subspecies of white-tailed deer. Adult males, or bucks, weigh only 55-75 pounds. Adult females, or does, weigh slightly less. On average, they stand only about 24 to 32 inches at the shoulder. Most males live about three years and females live about six years.

Endangered Status

The Key Deer, a subspecies of the White-tailed Deer, is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as endangered in Florida. The Key Deer declined in number as more and more of its habitat in the Florida Keys underwent development throughout the 20th century. Development continues to be a threat to the subspecies today. These tiny animals also fall victim to dogs and cars, and lose a significant number of fawns when they fall into drainage ditches. In 1961 the National Key Deer Refuge was established to protect the deer. The population has risen from a possible low of 25 animals in 1955 to about 250 to 300 today.

Key Deer


Key deer eat more than 150 species of plants. The most important part of their diet is mangrove trees and thatch palm berries. Due to encroachment on their habitat and their lack of fear of humans, some of the animals have been known to eat plants in people's gardens.

Because Key deer have lost their fear of humans, there is a serious problem with people illegally feeding them. This makes the deer more vulnerable to dog attacks or getting entangled in fences. It also brings them closer to roads where they can be hit by cars. Feeding Key deer can also cause them to group in a small area, rather than spreading out over the available habitat. Then if one deer is sick, it more easily passes its diseases on to other deer.


Key deer live in all the types of ecosystems found in the Florida keys, from pine forests to mangroves and freshwater wetlands.

Key Deer


Key deer live on 20-25 islands in the southern Florida Keys. They can swim between islands and move around their habitat in search of fresh water. They used to live across the lower Florida Keys, but now are only found in the areas from Sugarloaf Key to Bahia Honda Key. The National Key Deer Refuge was established in 1953.


The breeding season, or rut, takes place in the fall and early winter. Most mating occurs in October. Pregnancy is about seven months or 200 days, with most fawns born between April and June. Fawns are tiny - only 2-4 pounds at birth. Most does have only one fawn per year.

The males drop their antlers in February and March. Their new antlers start to grow immediately and have grown back by August.