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 doe to feed on high-up branches.
Here you can see a group of young deer led by a collared doe foraging on Red Mangrove.
Pictured here is a doe stripping off Thatch Palm berries during summer. A favorite!
Here you see 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.