National Key Deer Refuge
If you can’t figure it out from the giant fences and endless barrage of signs warning you to slow down because of the presence of key deer, those adorable little creatures are held in high esteem down here. The 30-inch-tall deer are an endangered species, currently estimated to have a population of less than 1,000, almost all of which live within the borders of the 8,500-acre National Key Deer Refuge. If you’re passing through Big Pine Key in the morning or evening, you’ll almost certainly see a handful of deer grazing along the road (hence the signs).
The National Key Deer Refuge Visitors Center (28950 Watson Blvd., 305/872-2239, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily) is a great place to get information on the deer and the other wildlife, including approximately 20 other endangered species, that live throughout the refuge. It’s best used as a starting point for exploring the two hiking trails and other natural features of the refuge; don’t miss the Blue Hole, an abandoned quarry that is now the largest body of fresh water in the Keys.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition