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Tracking Key Deer up the Keys

by Shayne Benowitz

Even those thankful to be living day in and day out on this easy-going island come down with a case of island fever occasionally. Sometimes that means its time to book a flight to the mainland, but often a quick fix can be found in a scenic drive up Highway-1.

There are many attractions once you leave the Key West perimeters and shallow salt ponds and mangroves provide constant scenery on your trek. It takes roughly 3-4 hours to reach Miami (approximately 154 miles north) if a cosmopolitan weekend is on the agenda. Less than 30 miles up the road there are restaurants and leisure activities offering a break from the island norm.

On a recent evening Captain Westy, Nicole, Stephen, and I set up Highway-1 to celebrate Nicole’s belated birthday at Square Grouper Bar & Grill. This is one of Nicole’s favorite restaurants because of the delicious key lime butter pasta and the amazing chocolate fondue for dessert. It’s always a treat to dine at Square Grouper because it’s outside of the typical options in Key West.

After a delicious dinner, with bellies full we hopped in Nicole’s car, Woody, and set out for another extraordinary adventure. The key deer is an endangered species of deer indigenous to the Florida Keys. They look similar to any other deer, only miniature with obvious shorter legs. Big Pine Key is a habitat in which key deer are abundant and we cruised the quiet streets hoping to spot a few.

A key deer grazing outside of someone's front yard in Big Pine Key.

A key deer grazing outside of someone's front yard in Big Pine Key.

Our search was successful and that old adage “a deer in the headlights” is clearly illustrated with key deer. They are accustomed to human contact and don’t run off at first sight, which is great because you can get a good look at the little guys. At Fury, we are spoiled with the natural habitat at the coral reef, but it is rare that we get up close and personal to the unique Keys wildlife on land.

Shayne Benowitz is a Fury crewmember and freelance writer working on her debut novel. For more travel stories and a daily dose of what’s cool around the globe visit her Wanderlust Website at http://web.me.com/shaynebeth.

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