Air boat tour on Orange Lake.
Florida's wildlife is responsible for billions of dollars of tourism revenue. Each year, millions of people travel from across the country and from all over the world to catch a glimpse of one or more of the state's wild creatures. Wildlife viewing has been a favorite past-time in Florida for young and old, through many generations.
Hunting and fishing have supported human life in Florida for thousands of years. Today they are sports which generate billions of dollars in revenue for the state's economy.
Overview of Wildlife in Florida
Raccoon at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
Mammals depend on freshwater ecosystems to supply a steady source of drinking water, food, native plants, and shelter. Florida's mammals include panther, otter, bears, raccoons, bats, bobcats, otters, beavers, squirrels, fox, deer, and rodents. One of Florida's best known mammals is the manatee.
Cold-blooded reptiles in Florida play key roles in the environment. Reptiles include alligators, turtles, tortoises, snakes, and lizards. Learn more about Florida reptiles: alligators, turtles, snakes, and lizards.
Aquatic land-lovers, Florida's amphibians comprise a delicate wildlife population especially sensitive to pollution; they require our protection for their survival. Amphibians include frogs and salamanders.
Some insects in Florida are nuisances but all insects in Florida are essential; even mosquitoes (baby fish and dragonflies eat them). Serving as both predators and prey, insects are a staple in the diets of many wildlife species including fish, birds, snakes, frogs, and even mammals. Other bugs have been introduced as biological controls for Florida's most noxious invasive plants.
Adapted to total darkness, several species of cave-dwelling troglobites live deep in the watery labyrinth of Florida's underwater cave systems or buried in one of several dry caves throughout the state. Learn more about troglobites.
In the air and on the ground, Florida's bird population has captured the attention of residents, tourists, and hunters for generations. Florida is home to a large number of avians. More than 450 species may be counted in the winter months. They include large populations of American eagles, turkeys, and song birds, wading birds, raptors, ducks and many more.
Florida is well-known for hosting the most-productive fisheries in the US; fishing is a topic of interest to residents and tourists alike. Because fish are a primary source of protein for wildlife and people, maintaining the health of Florida's fisheries and freshwater habitats is a primary concern in plant management work. Learn more about Florida freshwater fish.
Invasive wildlife species
Florida's subtropical climate is host to a variety of invasive plant species, and also to an increasing number of non-native animal species including parrots, iguanas, snakes, frogs, and lizards. Many species are deliberately released or have escaped captivity; some have hitch-hiked accidentally on products from elsewhere. Once established, invasive species compete with native wildlife for food, shelter, and habitat. Some Florida species have been replaced by introduced invasives, changing the natural habitat forever.
Protecting precious habitats
Restoring Florida's wetland ecosystems and riverine environments offers a hopeful future for wildlife in a fast-developing state. Efforts to protect surface water from contamination prevent groundwater degradation, and limiting excessive water consumption can help safeguard the unique aquatic environments that support Florida's diverse array of wildlife.
Over-harvesting and habitat destruction have affected wildlife populations throughout the state. Today, several animal species are threatened or endangered, or are species of special concern and are protected by state and federal laws. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission established a toll-free "Wildlife Alert" hotline to investigate violations of Florida's wildlife laws. Information leading to an arrest can result in up to a $1,000 reward.
The number to call: FWC Wildife Alert Reward Program 888-404-3922
For more information on how you can become involved in the effort to protect Florida's wildlife, visit the following websites:
For more information on wildlife viewing, visit the FWC web page on wildlife viewing