EFA: Etsy For Animals Etsy For Animals: ANiMAL MUNDi: Toy Deer by TheFrogBag

Etsy for Animals (EFA) aka Artists Helping Animals,

is a team of independent artists, craftspeople,

vintage sellers and craft suppliers on Etsy.com

who are dedicated to providing charitable relief to animals

by donating a portion of the profits from their shops

to an animal charity of their choosing,

and/or to EFA's featured Charity of the Month.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

ANiMAL MUNDi: Toy Deer by TheFrogBag

Toy Deer

Growing up in Florida makes a lot of odd animals seem perfectly normal. I learned alligator avoidance techniques in kindergarten and the difference between coral and king snakes during school picnics. Poisonous bugs and toxic sea life were just an unremarkable part of life. But even to my jaded eyes key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium) seemed exotic. 

Never heard of key deer? Their name makes them sound like something out of a pun-filled fantasy novel but they are in fact a subspecies of the Virginia white-tailed deer that just happens to live on the Florida Keys.

Photo courtesy: National Wildlife Federation

So, a type of deer that lives on an island. What’s so exotic about that? For one thing, their size. Often called “toy deer”, males weigh between 55 and 75 pounds, or about the same as a medium-sized dog. Females are even smaller, while fawns weigh about three pounds, making them the size of a half-grown kitten. 

They’re rare too, with less than 1,000 living in the wild. That’s not a lot, but it’s more than there were in 1951 when people first started to notice that they were disappearing. The official count then was only 25. Luckily their plight became public in time for the Endangered Species Act to make them one of its first protected species when it was instituted in 1973. 

There’s some dispute about how these deer ended up on the Keys in the first place. They’re accomplished swimmers and don’t hesitate to cross open water when traveling between islands. That’s not something normal white-tails do though, so it’s a good bet that they crossed a land bridge several thousand years ago when sea levels were lower and glaciers covered much of North America. When the glaciers melted the sea level rose, stranding the deer long enough for them to become a separate subspecies.

Photo courtesy: National Key Deer Refuge

Like many animals native to islands key deer have very little innate fear of humans. This has historically made them easy marks for hunters. Today they suffer more from habitat destruction and vehicle strikes, but these pale in comparison to the danger posed by steadily rising sea levels due to global climate change. 

In the end, the biggest threat to these tiny deer may be the disappearance of the Keys themselves, a tragedy that would make Florida a whole lot less exotic.


  1. Love this post. I'm a native Floridian (and have never left) and my family is from the Keys. I have many childhood memories of seeing key deer. :-)

  2. Thank you. Very intesting post, but such a sad story. I hope they can persevere!

  3. Thanks! I love them too. I hope to get back to the keys sometime soon and see some in the wild!


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