Key deer take at the Big Pine Keys in Florida.
Conservation efforts include the establishment of the National Key Deer Refuge, which consists of approximately 8,500 acres (34 km2) on Big Pine, No Name Key and several smaller uninhabited islands. Not all of the refuge lands are protected as public lands; despite extensive efforts of the refuge to purchase these private habitat lands for protection in the refuge, about 5,000 acres (20 km2) currently remain in private ownership and can potentially be developed. About 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) of this privately developable land is on Big Pine Key and No Name Key, which is the central population area for the deer.
In 2006, a Habitat Conservation Plan was enacted by Monroe County and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which will limit development in primary habitat and provide for additional habitat purchases over the next 15 years. At the end of this period, however, most of the 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) of privately owned habitat land on Big Pine and No Name Keys will still be open for further development. Thus, while the short term promises some cushion from extinction, the long-term prospects for the deer remain in doubt.
The refuge also provides rules for the control of feral dogs, which often attack the deer, and for the prohibition of feeding of the deer, which lowers their resistance to natural cycles; however, historically, due to local political pressures, these rules have been poorly enforced. A portion of U.S. Route 1 was also elevated in 2003 to allow the deer to pass safely beneath the roadway, in an attempt to lessen the chance of road kills. However, no decrease in total traffic deaths has been seen. Biologists have recently begun relocating some Key deer from Big Pine Key to other islands, since Big Pine Key’s population has reached its sustainable limit.