- The National Key Deer Refuge consists of approximately 9,200 acres of land that includes mangrove forests, freshwater and salt marsh wetlands, pine rockland forests and tropical hardwood hammocks, as well as more than 75,000 acres of state waters co-managed to support refuge objectives. Shallow nearshore waters are included as well.
These native habitats sustain the tiny Key deer, a subspecies of the North American white-tailed deer, and 21 other threatened and endangered plant and animal species. Since the refuge was established, the Key deer, once nearing extinction because of over-hunting and habitat loss, has rebounded to a healthy population of between 600 and 700 animals.
The refuge, which is more than 50 years old, is also a stopping point for thousands of migratory birds each year, and a winter home to many North American bird species including the roseate tern and peregrine falcon. Birdwatching is one of the world's largest participatory sports, and the Keys are an ideal location for it, year-round.
Enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels are welcome to walk along the nature trails in the Refuge, and maps are provided at the visitor center. As well as wearing comfortable walking shoes and weather–appropriate clothing, visitors are encouraged to bring sunscreen, a hat, bug spray, water, binoculars and field guides for bird watching.
- © NileGuide2013
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