Despite common misconceptions, Florida isn’t just a state for Spring Breakers. Sure, the pearly white beaches and tropical weather is enough for anyone to want to visit, but did you know that Florida is teeming with fascinating wildlife?
With such a diverse range of wildlife, Florida is definitely the place to visit if you want to explore versatile habitats for various species.
Not sure what animals are native to or live in Florida? Here’s a list of 14 animals that live in Florida!
1. Florida Panther
Unbeknownst to some, the Florida panther is Florida’s state animal, and actually one of the most endangered animals in the whole state.
This North American cougar lives in freshwater swamp forests, pinelands, and tropical hardwood hammocks.
While they look similar to the mountain lion, the Florida panther exhibits a specific tuft of fur on their backs and a crooked tail, separating the species.
These large cats are solitary carnivores, and while you might spot one in the wild, they aren’t likely to show aggression. Instead, they are territorial and will protect their young.
2. American Alligator
It wouldn’t be a list about the animals of Florida if we didn’t mention alligators. The American alligator is a large apex predator native to the southeastern United States, and is the official state reptile of Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
These reptiles grow up to 5 meters long and inhabit both tropical and subtropical wetlands.
Despite their ferocious appearance, the American alligator isn’t a particularly aggressive species unless they feel threatened.
3. Burmese Python
While technically native to Southeast Asia, the Burmese Python has a successful breeding population in South Florida. Burmese pythons are one of the largest snake species in the world, reaching lengths of up to and over 5 meters long.
Unfortunately, as a result of the pet trade, the Burmese python is considered an invasive species in Florida.
As pythons, the Burmese python is a non-venomous snake that kills its prey through constriction. They don’t pose a threat to humans, and instead feast on a diet of small mammals, reptiles, birds, rodents, and amphibians.
4. Florida Black Bear
A subspecies of the American black bear, the Florida black bear is found in the forested areas of Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama.
As a result of increased human developments and habitat loss, it’s common to come across these bears in protected national forests. This is Florida’s second-largest terrestrial animal.
5. American Bison
The first-largest terrestrial animal of Florida is the iconic American bison. While it’s not common to see them, there are American bison in the plains of South Florida.
Despite being the national mammal of the United States, excessive culling has resulted in the depleting population of bison, with roughly 30,000 left in the wild.
A more commonly spotted animal in Florida is the humble raccoon(see also: Animals That Look like Raccoons). Native to North America, raccoons are mid-sized mammals known for their black and white facial mask and ringed tail.
Despite their attractive appearance, raccoons are typically considered pests that tear into garbage for food.
7. Key Deer
Among several deer species in Florida are the endangered Key deer, a species only present in the Florida Keys. This small white-tailed deer doesn’t exceed 30” at the shoulder and exhibits a beautiful reddish-brown coloration.
Living in the Florida Keys, the deer have no problem swimming between islands and coexisting alongside humans.
8. Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
A venomous pit viper species, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake is a snake species feared across the world. Not only is it the largest rattlesnake species, but it’s also one of the most venomous.
Most iconically, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake is known for its jarring rattling tail, which is shaken rapidly to warn off humans and animals.
9. Bald Eagle
This iconic bird of prey is found across the United States, including Florida. Bald eagles are sea eagles, and therefore typically reside near coastal areas or bodies of large water with excessive trees for nesting.
These opportunistic feeders are most well-known for their iconic appearance and stature, as it’s known as the national bird of the United States.
10. Northern River Otter
The northern river otter is a semiaquatic otter found only along the coasts and waterways of North America. These adorable otters are known for establishing complex burrows with many tunnel openings.
Their thick, waterproof coats and sharp claws make swimming and hunting in the water easy.
11. American Crocodile
American crocodiles are found across South Florida in river systems, lagoons, mangrove swamps, brackish lakes, and small islands.
These crocodiles are significantly larger than the American alligator, with the key difference being in their head and eye shape. While alligators have a rounded snout and eyes, crocodiles have a pointed snout and jarring eyes.
12. Leatherback Turtle
Leatherback turtles are a migratory species that cross the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. They get their name from their unique shell, which feels distinctly leather-like compared to the hard shell of most other turtles.
It is believed that 50% of all leatherback nesting occurs in Palm Beach County.
13. Nine-Banded Armadillo
The nine-banded armadillo is the most widely distributed armadillo species, found across North, Central, and South America. These nocturnal mammals are found in most habitats, including rainforests and grasslands.
They are most commonly known for their outer shell, which acts as armor against predators.
Also known as the red lynx, bobcats are a medium-sized cat found in Florida and across North America. These predators are highly adaptable, living in forest edges, urban edges, swamplands, wooded areas, and more.
Despite being hunted for sport and fur, the population has managed to stay stable.
Also, despite being a big cat, bobcats don’t really pose a threat to humans if they are left alone. Instead, they hunt for small mammals like rabbits and hares, rodents, birds, insects, and even small deer.
So, there you have it! Now you know the top 14 animals that live in Florida. If you’re lucky, you might be able to spot one or more of these fascinating species in the wild.