FWS Focus


This is the smallest race of North American deer. Adults measure 25 to 30 inches at the shoulder and have an average weight of 55 to 75 pounds for males and 45-65 pounds for females. The body is stockier, legs shorter, and skull wider than other races of white-tailed deer. The coat varies from a deep reddish brown to a grizzled, gray color. Bucks usually have antlers by their second year, and eight points by the fifth. The Key deer's primary food source is the red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), but approximately 6O other plants are also known to form part of its diet. Possibly most of the available plant species are used at one time or another. The selection of some food plants changes seasonally, probably reflecting availability and nutritional needs. 

See an Injured Key Deer?

Please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Wildlife Hotline, 888-404-3922. A dispatcher will send a law enforcement officer from FWC or the Service to find the injured deer and assess the nature of the injuries. If the deer is responsive, has injuries that appear to be minor or old and healing, does not show disease symptoms, and is able to move on its own, then it is left alone to rest and recover naturally.

If a deer's injuries are such that veterinary care can be provided and the deer can be released back into the wild, responders contact a veterinarian who is federally permitted to administer care for Key deer. In severe situations when injuries are deemed serious enough or the deer is not able to move or feed or survive on its own, then the responder is able to make the decision to euthanize the deer to alleviate its suffering. Wildlife veterinarians with the Service are also consulted on certain cases, particularly when disease is suspected. 

Key deer are wild animals. According to research, the care and treatment given domesticated animals is ineffective and inhumane for wild animals (Sikes et al. Animal Care and Use Committee of the American Society of Mammalogists, 2016). Capturing, transporting, and housing them in captivity can result in a great deal of stress and death for wild animals. It is also against the law for unauthorized people to do so, as Key deer are protected under the Endangered Species Act, as well as Florida state law. These animals are adapted to living in the wild, so please help keep them healthy and wild by not approaching or feeding them.

Scientific Name

Odocoileus virginianus clavium
Common Name
Key deer
FWS Category

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Identification Numbers



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