LIttle deer_detail1.jpg

Installed at the Arts Warehouse, Delray Beach,FL

Diane Arrieta

Little Deer

Mixed media 

Dimensions Variable


The Key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium) is an endangered deer that lives only in the Florida Keys and is the smallest North American deer. Living close to humans, the Key deer has little of the natural fear of man shown by most of their larger mainland relatives.


Widespread poaching and habitat destruction caused the subspecies to plummet to near-extinction by the 1950s. The National Key Deer Refuge, a federally administered National Wildlife Refuge operated by the Wildlife Service, was established in 1967.

Recent population estimates are around 600-700 individuals; putting it on the list of endangered species. Road kills from drivers on US 1, which traverses the deer's small range, are also a major threat, averaging between 125 and 150 kills per year, 70% of the annual mortality. In September 2016, a screw worm infestation was discovered (the first infestation of its kind in the U.S. since 1982) to be affecting the Key deer population. The outbreak killed 135 deer, roughly an eighth of the herd. 

In 2019, the Federal government is considering removing its endangered status. Human encroachment into the fragile habitat and the deer's relatively low rate of reproduction point to an uncertain future for the species.