Here at Wekiwa Springs lives a great variety of wildlife. The following are only some of the animals that inhabit this pristine and diverse ecosystem. Black bears, deer, foxes, a wide range of birds, insects and plants are to be found. Every trip to the park provides a new opportunity to discover life.
American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
The American Alligator inhabits the southeastern United States. Their life spans can exceed 60 yrs. Alligators occur on the Atlantic Coast of North America from Florida through coastal North Carolina, and along the Gulf Coast into Texas. They eat fish, turtles, wading birds, snakes, frogs, small mammals and even smaller alligators.
Gray Foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus floridanus)
The gray fox is one of Florida’s most commonly seen carnivores. They feed on small animals, acorns, fruit and insects, but they will also scavenge road-killed animals. They are active at night and usually hunt alone. Gray Foxes are abundant in hardwood forests, pine-oak woodlands and brushy fields.
Sherman’s Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger shermani)
Sherman’s Fox Squirrel occurs in peninsular Florida to the north end of Lake Okeechobee, and is more than twice the size of the common gray squirrel. It is probably destined for eventual “endangered” status. Fox squirrels are selective in their habitat needs. They depend mostly on pine seeds for food in the summer and on acorns during the remainder of the year.
Barred Owl (Strix varia)
This owl is most often seen by those who seek it out in its dark retreat, usually a thick grove of trees in lowland forest. There it rests quietly during the day. It emerges at night to feed on rodents, birds, frogs, and crayfish. It is know by it’s familiar “who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks-for-you-all” hooting.
Florida Black Bear (Ursus americanus floridanus)
The Florida black bear is the largest native land mammal in Florida. It is shy and secretive, hiding in dense vegetation and rarely seen in the wild. Bears are omnivores, meaning they eat both vegetable and animal matter. Some foods they may eat include acorns, insects, berries, saw palmetto, armadillos, honey and bee larvae.
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
The largest and most widespread heron in North America, the Great Blue Heron can be found along the ocean shore or the edge of a small inland pond. Though they are best known as fishers, mice constitute a large part of their diet, and they also eat insects and other small creatures.
Raccoon (Procyon lotor)
Raccoons can be found just about everywhere, because they will eat just about anything. They are found in forests, marshes, prairies, and even in cities. They are adaptable and use their dexterous front paws and long fingers to find and feast on a wide variety of fare. Their life span in the wild is 2 to 3 years.
Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus Polyphemus)
Gopher tortoises live in dry, upland habitats that have well-drained soils for them to dig their burrows. Their common habitat includes: pine flatwoods, xeric oak, sand pine, scrub oak, agricultural lands, and coastal dune and scrub. Their diet consists of grasses and legumes. The Gopher Tortoise is listed as a threatened species.
Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)
A common forest-dwelling hawk of the East and California, the Red-shouldered Hawk favors woodlands near water, but may also nest in suburban areas. It is perhaps the most vocal American hawk. It preys on snakes and frogs. It also eats insects and small mammals. Its call is a loud two syllable scream.
Corn Snake, also called ‘Rat Snake’ (Elaphe guttata)
Corn snakes are slender with a length of 24 to 72 inches. They feed on mice, rats, birds, and bats. They are constrictors. They are found in the eastern United States from southern New Jersey south through Florida, west to Louisiana and parts of Kentucky. They help to control rodent populations that may otherwise spread disease
River Otter (Lutra Canadensis)
The river otter is a long, elongated water-loving animal found throughout Florida except the Keys. This playful animal is found from Mexico north to Alaska. They are especially abundant throughout Canada. Otters inhabit lakes ponds, marshes and inland waterways.
Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina bauri)
The Florida Box Turtle is one of the well known subspecies of Eastern Box Turtle. Box Turtles are usually seen early in the day, or after a rain. They are fond of slugs, earthworms, wild strawberries, and mushrooms. If habitat conditions remain constant, a Box Turtle may spend its life in an area scarcely larger than a football field.
Striped Mud Turtle (Kinosternon baurii)
This small Endangered Turtle at maturity reaches only about five inches and is easily identified by its three yellow or creamy beige stripes. The Striped Mud Turtle prefers swampy, shallow, still waters and is found most anywhere in Florida. The Striped Mud Turtle is omnivorous and will investigate nearly anything it comes across, including cow dung.
Male Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)
Female Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)
Males are iridescent chestnut and green, with ornate patterns on nearly every feather; the females have a distinctive profile and delicate white pattern around the eye. They live in wooded swamps, where they nest in holes in trees or in nest boxes put up around lake margins. They are one of the few duck species with claws that can grip bark and perch on branches.
Bobcat (Lynx Rufus)
Bobcats can be found in every county in Florida and in most states in the country. They are so named because of their ‘bobbed’ tail. The eastern cottontail, marsh rabbit and cotton rat are their primary prey. By feeding on these animals, the bobcat provides a necessary control on their populations.
Eastern River Cooter (Pseudemys concinna concinna)
The eastern river cooter (Pseudemys concinna concinna) is a freshwater turtle native to the central and eastern United States, from Virginia south to mid-Georgia, west to eastern Texas, Oklahoma, and north to southern Indiana. They are usually found in rivers with moderate current, as well as lakes and tidal marshes.
Eastern River Cooters are capable of growing up to 16 inches (41 cm). The upper shell is typically dark greenish-brown with pale yellow markings. The skin is dark green with yellow stripes down the neck and legs. The bottom shell is yellow with a dark pattern that follows the scute seams. They are often confused with yellow-bellied sliders, which also have yellow stripes and yellow bottom shells, but the latter have green spots along their bellies.
As these turtles grow older, they tend to become very darker, obscuring much of the shell design. Wide, sometimes dark-edged, stripes under the chin form an upside-down “Y”. Males have a broader tail and may have a slightly concave bottom shell. Females tend to grow larger than males, and have a smaller tail and more convex bottom shell.
Pine Snake (Pituophis melanoleucus)
The Florida pine snake is a magnificent animal that primarily inhabits pinelands. Its numbers appear to have declined significantly because of habitat loss; road mortality has also contributed to its demise. They are creamy blackish-brown in color with reddish bands and blotches that are more prominent toward the rear of the snake. They also have a relatively pointed snout with a triangular-shaped scale. When threatened, pine snakes will try to flee, but if retreat is not an option they will coil, rear up, and hiss loudly in an attempt to intimidate their attacker. They will often enter pocket gopher burrows in search of the small burrowing mammal – one of their favorite foods.
Coyote (Canis latrans)
Eradication of wolves and increased agricultural development during the 1900s enabled coyotes to expand across most of North America. Appearing in the Panhandle during the 1960s, coyotes now occur throughout Florida and are sometimes observed in urban areas. Neither introduced nor native, coyotes are usually classified as a naturalized species. In rare instances, feral dogs and coyotes may mate and produce hybrid “coy-dogs.” Coyotes can be identified by their rusty brown bushy tail. They can weigh between 25 and 35 lbs. They have one litter a year usually with six pups although the number of pups is related to the available food supply.
Nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)
The nine-banded armadillo is a burrowing insectivore. The armadillo primarily uses burrows for shelter and den sites, although they can dig very rapidly and may burrow to escape danger. Armadillos belong to the order Edentata, which includes anteaters, sloths, and armadillos. The word edentate means “without teeth,” and armadillos and other species in this order have reduced, degenerate teeth or lack teeth completely. Armadillos have long tapered snouts and long, sticky tongues they use to capture ants, termites, grubs, and other insects. Eggs of ground nesting birds and small snakes and lizards may be eaten occasionally. Armadillos are unique in that they are the only armored mammal. The nine-banded armadillo has 9 flexible plates attached to shoulder and hip shields. The armadillo is not native to Florida and is believed to have been introduced in the early 1900s. However, during the Pleistocene, Florida was home to a giant armadillo (Holmesina septentrionalis), which was approximately the size of a refrigerator and weighed more than 600 pounds. The nine-banded armadillo is native to the southwestern U.S.A., Mexico, and Central and South America and is one of 21 species of armadillos that occur in the Americas. Armadillos construct multiple burrows to 25 feet deep that provide habitat for numerous native species.
Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis)
The color of green anoles may vary depending on their surroundings, mood, temperature, and health, however they are not related to chameleons. They are excellent climbers and spend most of their time in trees and shrubs. Anoles are territorial and they defend territories with displays and, if necessary, aggressive combat. The “dewlap” (flap of skin at the base of the throat) can be extended like a flag to signal adversaries and potential mates. Green anoles are prey to many species – birds, snakes, and mammals. One of the greatest threats (aside from habitat loss) to green anoles, however, is from non-native anoles like the brown anole.
Brown Anole (Anolis sagrei)
The brown/Cuban anole is the most common exotic lizard in Florida and has been recorded in every peninsular county. They are conspicuous around homes in residential areas and among ornamental vegetation in parking lots. Although our native green anoles can coexist with brown anoles, there is competition between these species for food and space. The color patterns of this species are highly variable, but are always shades of brown.