Take another look at Florida

Posted on: 31 May 2011 by Rhian Mainwaring

Head to the sunshine state to see some of America's most endangered species

Florida is often perceived as a young family holiday resort, teaming with water parks and tourist-centred theme parks like Disney World. However, Florida is also the home to over 50 endangered species and with beautiful scenery and year round sunshine its time to take a look at the sunshine state again!

So, if Disney World isn't your cup of tea, take a look at Florida's incredible wildlife parks home to some of the world's most endangered species...

Homosassa Springs State Park


Best for seeing: West Indian Manatee & Florida Panther

Located in Homosassa in the Northeast District of Florida, this park is famous for the endangered West Indian Manatees, which can be seen all year round from an underwater observatory in the park’s main spring. 

These large, grey underwater mammals (also called Sea Cows) have a friendly appearance and can grow up to four metres long in size, but despite their size, they are graceful swimmers. The park is also home to the Florida Panther and is one of the few parks where you can see these Floridian endangered species and others, like the Whooping Crane and Red Wolf, up close.

Info: www.homosassasprings.org

Everglades National Park


Best for seeing: Florida Panther, West Indian Manatee, Snail Kite, Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow, Red Cockaded Woodpecker, Wood Stork, Eastern Indigo Snake

Everglades is a world heritage site and the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, it is home to many of Florida's endangered species, as well as many more American greats. Florida Panther is native to the Everglades and with fewer than 100 estimated to live in South Florida, they are a rare sight! 

Endangered birds here include the large bald-headed Wood Stork and the Snail Kite, a medium sized raptor with a characteristic curved bill. Smaller birds to spot are the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow and the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, characterised by its black and white back and black cap and nape. 

Finally, if snakes are your thing (are they anybody's?) the black, non-venomous Eastern Indigo Snake is the longest native snake of the United States, reaching almost nine feet (shiver).

 Info: www.nps.gov/ever

Everglades Alligator Farm

American crocodile

Best for spotting: The American Crocodile

The Everglades Alligator Farm, located just outside the Everglades National Park, is the oldest commercial alligator farm in Florida. In contrast to the large number of alligators in Florida, the American crocodile (with just 600 remaining) is still endangered and also lives in the park’s crocodile pond. Crocs differ from gators in that they are lighter in colour and have a narrower, triangular-shaped snout. Apart from catching a glimpse of the rare reptile, visitors can also enjoy alligator shows and feeding sessions during their visit.

Info: everglades.com

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Kemps Ridley Turtle

Best for spotting: West Indian Manatee, Wood Stork,  Florida Scrub Jay,  Roseate Tern,  Green Turtle, Kemps Ridley Turtle,  Atlantic Hawksbill Turtle, Leatherback Turtle

This wildlife refuge is made up of coastal dunes, saltwater estuaries & marshes, freshwater impoundments, scrub, pine flatwoods and hardwood hammocks and is home to more than 1,500 species of plants and animals. 

West Indian Manatees can also be seen here from the Manatee viewing platform, while a largely undeveloped stretch of coast is home to one of the most important sea turtle nesting sites in the United States, with four endangered species of sea turtles calling it home.

Info: fws.gov/merrittisland


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