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Biology

Key deer are most active during the late evening, night and early morning (3). The diet varies depending on the season as, different plants become available and as nutritional requirements change (2). They feed on over 160 plant species, but the red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) is a particular favourite (4) (3). The breeding season (known as the rut) takes place from September to December and January, but peaks in October (3) (2). Key deer are known to produce, on average, fewer young than any other populations of white deer in North America, possibly because of a deficiency in phosphorous or as an evolutionary adaptation to a restricted environment (2). During the rut, bucks fight with their antlers in order to gain dominance and the right to breed (3). The antlers are shed in February or March, and a new set starts to grow almost straight away. The new antlers will be fully grown by August and the velvet surrounding them will have been rubbed off by September (3). After mating, the gestation period lasts around 7 months (3). Most fawns are produced in the rainy season in April or May (4), ensuring that there is plenty of food available for the females whilst they are suckling their young (2). Males tend to disperse away from the area of birth as fawns or as yearlings, but females often stay with their mother, forming loose matriarchal groups consisting of the mother and several generations of her daughters (2).

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Source: ARKive

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