USA/FL: Florida Key Deer National Refuge

As you cross the Big Pine Key, you see “deer crossing” signs and speed limits everywhere – a surprising site for the bottom of the Florida Keys island chain. And yet, this is the habitat of the critically endangered Florida key deer, the smallest deer species in North America. The deer migrated here over the land bridge during the last Ice Age and then got trapped here and evolved into a separate diminutive species. The deer almost went extinct in the 1950s, with only 25 of them remaining with poaching and roadkill responsible for decimation. The national refuge was created and the numbers slowly rose to about 600-700 today. Still, 125 deer are killed annually by speeding cars – they really have nowhere to go, it’s a tiny island with very little forest land at the edge of houses and development. To make things worse, in August 2019, the Trump administration announced it will remove the key deer from the endangered species list to allow for further commercial land development.