Monday, November 29, 2010

All Kinds of Critters on Big Pine Key

The Florida Keys are a series of small islands and coral reef extending about 150 miles into the waters between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.  Each island (key) is fairly small—some less than a mile wide and a mile or two long.  Big Pine Key is one of the larger islands (a good 7 or 8 miles long and 2 miles wide).

The island is home to the tiny Key Deer.  Only about 500 of them exist and they only live on Big Pine Key (which means that sightings of these little cuties are pretty common once you get off the Overseas Highway).  So, for my first day’s adventures, I decided to take a morning bike ride around the island to see what creatures I could find.

Here’s the first creature I encountered!
And a quick stop to the grocery store (after hearing the sounds of roosters crowing), revealed that the roosters lived in the grocery store’s parking lot! (these birds are very common in Key West too)

But it wasn’t long until I finally found a Key Deer.  They’re very used to people and like to hang out in some of the residential neighborhoods on the island (especially on trash day I hear.. easy pickins!):

There’s a wildlife sanctuary on the north end of the island around a freshwater sink hole pond called Blue Hole that I wanted to go explore.  The first animal I found there was a large green iguana hiding in the brush (click this photo open to see it larger)--

I saw a few birds swimming on the pond, but nothing too interesting, so I started to walk back to the trailhead.  All of a sudden, I heard some strange coo-ing sounds coming from a shady grove ahead of me.  I was amazed to find a dozen or so gorgeous peacocks strutting around foraging for their breakfast.  Not sure how they ever got to the island, but they seem to call it home now!


On the way home, I spotted a few more Key deer but nothing could top the surprise of those beautiful peacocks!


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