The Key deer’s diet varies seasonally with availability of specific plants and changes in nutritional requirements (Carlson et al. 1989, Klimstra and Dooley 1990). Seasonal availability of special foods [e.g., black mangrove (Avicennia germinans), palm (Thrinax morrisii, Coccothrinax argentata), and dilly fruits (Manilkara bahamensis)] influences Key deer movements. Key deer forage on more than 160 other species to meet nutritional requirements (Klimstra and Dooley 1990), especially red mangroves (Rhizophora mangle), blackbead (Pithecellobium keyense), grasses, acacia (Acacia pinetorum), Indian mulberry (Morinda royoc), and pencil flower (Stylosanthes hamata). Red and black mangroves constitute 24 percent by volume of the diet of the Key deer (Klimstra and Dooley 1990).
Key deer eat more than 160 species of plants. The 2 most important are mangrove trees and thatch palm berries. They are perfectly adapted to thrive on native vegetation. They have very delicate gastrointestinal systems and that is one of several important reasons they should not be fed.
It’s no problem for this Key deer doe to stand on hind legs to reach desired vegetation.
Key Deer buck eating Black Mangrove.
A group of young Key deer led by a collared doe foraging on Red Mangrove.
Key Deer doe stripping off Thatch Palm berries during summer.
Toro munching on Red Mangrove leaves. He spends most of his time foraging and resting. Non-native vegetation and “human” food may severely upset his digestion.
Key deer doe eating grass.
Key deer doe eating Thatch palm flowers.
Key deer doe eating Dogwood.
Key deer doe eating mushroom.
Young Key deer buck eating Red mangrove.
Key deer doe eating Gumbo limbo.
Key deer doe eating Green buttonwood.
Key deer doe eating Batis.
Key deer doe eating Bay Cedar.
Key Deer buck eating algae.
Key Deer doe eating grass.
Key Deer Button Buck eating Red Mangrove propagule.