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Endangered Species: Key Deer, Essay Example

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The Key deer species, (Odocoileus virginianus clavium), is the smallest of the white-tailed deer and is found in the Florida Keys, particularly Big Pine Key. The Key deer is around 2 ft. tall and the Does weigh between 45-65 lbs. and the bucks weight between 55-75 lbs. Reproduction season for Key Deer occurs between September through October; however, it can also lead into November and December.  The gestation time for the Key Deer is about 204 days.  The fawns, are therefore, born in the spring.  Key Deer feed on native plants found in the Florida Keys, such as red, black and white mangroves and thatch palm berries, as well as numerous other species of plants.  An interesting fact about the Key deer is that they can take in small amounts salt in water; therefore, they are able to drink brackish water in addition to fresh water.  Their habitat is crucial to their success and the Key deer population is currently on the Endangered Species list per the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2012; Key Deer Protection Alliance, 2010)

The Key deer is currently at a population between 600-750 animals.  During the 1940s, there were only about 50 animals in the population; however, there was the National Key Deer Refuge established in 1957 due to the uncontrolled hunting and removal of their habitat.  With the establishment of the National Key Deer Refuge, their numbers have increased; however, they are still an endangered species. (Key Deer Protection Alliance, 2010)  Highway mortality is the number one source for deer deaths.  In addition, habitat loss is another source for their low densities. 

The National Key Deer Refuge is located on Big Pine Key, which is part of the Lower Keys on 25 Islands.  This is about 100 miles south from Miami and 30 miles North from Key West along the US-1.  The refuge is comprised of 84,351 acres of land.  The land includes pine Rockland forests, tropical hammocks, freshwater and salt marsh wetland, and mangrove trees.  This habitat is necessary for Key Deer to survive in the Florida Keys.  In addition, the habitat is home to numerous more endangered species, such as Keys marsh rabbit and the silver ice rat.  (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2012)

The National Key Deer Refuge is a good preventative measure in order to increase the Key Deer population and prevent the deer from extinction; however there are still concerns in regard to habitat.  The Florida Keys have a diverse land, made of freshwater wetlands, tropical forests, pine Rockland’s and mangroves.  These habitats together form what maintains the populations of the listed endangered species.  The habitats provide shelter, water, and space for animals.  However, with the increased commercial and residential development the Florida Keys are receiving, there is an increased demand for land and water resources.  These habitats, in which the endangered species live, such as the Key Deer, are becoming threatened.  In addition, human interaction with the deer is causing changes in the deer behavior.  For instance, increase feeding from humans causes the deer to group together increasing susceptibility to disease, as well as decreases their fear of humans and other wildlife.  This leads to an increased susceptibility to death from cars and poachers.  (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2012)

It is our job, as humans, to protect wildlife from extinction.  Species diversity is important for nature, ecosystems and our culture.  In order to help the extinction of the Key deer, individuals should follow the guidelines per the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when entering the Key Deer Refuge, such as not to feed the deer, to not throw trash, and drive at the indicated speed limits.  Furthermore, efforts should be made to lobby to help decrease the amount of human activity and the establishment of commercial or residential areas near the refuge that could threaten its fragile state.

References

Key Deer Alliance. (2010). Web. Retrieved on July 25, 2012 from: http://keydeer.org/.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (2012). National Key Deer Refuge. Web. Retrieved on July 25, 2012 from: http://www.fws.gov/nationalkeydeer/.

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