KeyDeer1BIG PINE KEY, Florida Keys — Birding and outdoor enthusiasts can discover the environmental richness of the Lower Florida Keys during a series of guided trail walks at the National Key Deer Refuge.

Led by knowledgeable guides, upcoming walks are scheduled Friday, Oct. 22; Friday, Nov. 5, in conjunction with the Florida Keys’ EcoWeek celebrations; Wednesday, Nov. 24; and Friday, Dec. 17.

The National Key Deer Refuge, consisting of more than 9,000 acres of land, includes mangrove forests, freshwater and salt marsh wetlands, pine rockland forests and tropical hardwood hammocks. These native habitats sustain the tiny Key deer, a subspecies of the North American white-tailed deer, and 21 other threatened and endangered plant and animal species.

The refuge is a stopping point for thousands of migratory birds each year, and a winter home to many North American bird species including the roseate tern and peregrine falcon.

KeyDeer2Participants in each trail walk are to gather at the refuge’s visitor center in Big Pine Key Plaza, off U.S. Highway 1 at Mile Marker 30.3, before departing at 8:05 a.m. to caravan to the scheduled trail site. The walks begin early to maximize observation of morning bird activity and end by 11 a.m., or whenever avian activity lessens because of midday heat.

Enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels are welcome, and maps will be provided. As well as wearing comfortable walking shoes and weather–appropriate clothing, participants are encouraged to bring sunscreen, a hat, bug spray, water, binoculars and field guides. A limited number of loaner field guides and binoculars will be available.

For more information, call the refuge’s visitor center at 305-872-0774.

For information about accommodations, call the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce at 305-872-2411 or visit the Florida Keys’ website at www.fla-keys.com.

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