Each moment of the year has its own beauty . . . a picture which was never before and shall never be seen again.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sherman’s Fox Squirrel

Sherman's Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger shermani)

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.

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Barred Owl

Barred Owl (Strix varia)

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.

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Florida Black Bear

Florida Black Bear (Ursus americanus floridanus)

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.

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Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

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.

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Raccoon

Raccoon (Procyon lotor)

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.

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Gopher Tortoise

Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus Polyphemus)

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.

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Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

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.

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Corn Snake

Corn Snake, also called 'Rat Snake' (Elaphe guttata)

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

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River Otter

River Otter (Lutra Canadensis)

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.

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Eastern Box Turtle

Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina bauri)

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.

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Striped Mud Turtle

Striped Mud Turtle (Kinosternon baurii)

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.

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Wood Duck

WoodDuck-male

Male Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)

WoodDuck-female

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.

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Bobcat

Bobcat

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.

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Eastern River Cooter

Eastern River Cooter

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.

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Pine Snake

Pine Snake (Pituophis melanoleucus)

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.

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Coyote

Coyote (Canis latrans)

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.

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