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Florida’s tiny ‘fairy tale’ deer are losing habitat as seas rise » Yale Climate Connections


Key deer are found in only one place: the Florida Keys. And they look like something out of a fairytale. The deer are so tiny, they measure only about two feet at the shoulder.

Colangelo: “They are very cute animals, and people love them.”

That’s Nikki Colangelo of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Her agency is working to protect the species.

As seas rise and storms become more extreme, the ocean threatens to swallow much of the deer’s habitat. Already, salt water is moving inland, so it’s harder for the deer to find fresh water.

To help, the agency is improving habitat in places on higher ground that are more protected from sea level rise.

It’s working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to restore a large freshwater marsh system in Big Pine Key.

Colangelo: “It’s one of the higher elevation islands in the Keys and where a large portion of the population currently occurs.”

The project will help ensure that Key deer have access to fresh water there.

Colangelo: “That’s something that we’re hoping will buy time for us to continue to improve the habitat conditions for this Key deer, until hopefully, we can do what’s needed to slow climate change and sea level rise effects for the species in the future.”

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media


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