Animals in Florida

Florida may be most famous for Spring Break and its many white-sand beaches, but in addition to its tourism industry, the state is also very ecologically diverse, rich in strange and dangerous wildlife, such as native alligators and other predators, wild mammals, common rodents, endangered species, some invasive amphibians, and many species of bird. The weather in Florida is hot and humid throughout most of the year.

The Official State Animals of Florida

Given its biodiversity and its access to both freshwater and saltwater, it is no surprise that Florida has named seven official state animals and even a state butterfly. In addition to the animals below, it might seem strange, but there is also a state shell, a state stone, and a state soil! The shell title belongs to the Conch.

The Official State Animal of Florida: Florida Panther

These native panthers are not black like those found in other parts of the world. These sleek predators are tan and brown, looking a lot like a bobcat but larger, and they became one of the state mammals of Florida in 1982. Florida Panthers (Felis concolor coryi) are considered endangered, and hunting them has been illegal since 1958. They are sometimes referred to as “painters” or “catamounts.”

The Official State Bird of Florida: Mockingbird

The Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) was designated the Florida State bird in 1927. This small mimic bird is common and popular in the southern United States. Though this clever mimic is often seen during the day and heard recreating the songs of other birds, its own song is most often heard at night, especially in the spring.

The Official State Reptile of Florida: Alligator

The Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) was adopted as the state reptile in 1987. These predators are possibly Florida’s most well-known animal. They are found all over Florida, in its many lakes, swamps, and wetlands. Their diet consists primarily of small aquatic and semi-aquatic animals. They were once endangered, but their populations have recovered after a period of over-hunting. A female alligator may lay as many as 30 eggs in her nest, of which she is fiercely protective.

There is estimated to be about 1.3 million alligators in Florida lakes. The Florida lake with the most alligators is believed to be Lake Okeechobee, which is home to around 30,000 alligators.

The Official State Saltwater Fish of Florida: Sailfish

The sailfish (Istiophorus platypterus) was named the official state fish in 1975. It was recognized because sailfishing is very popular in Florida and the keys. Ernest Hemingway famously caught a nine-foot specimen in 1934. These incredible fish can reach speeds up to 60 miles per hour and weigh nearly 50 pounds.

The Official State Freshwater Fish of Florida: Largemouth Bass

The largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides floridanus) is a popular prize for sport fishing. These fish are said to grow larger in Florida than elsewhere for some reason, reaching lengths of nearly two feet and weights of up to fifteen pounds. They have an oversized mouth, after which they are named, and also a notched dorsal fin.

The Official State Marine Mammal of Florida: Manatee

Designated the state marine mammal in 1975, the manatee (Trichechus manatus) is a surprisingly graceful animal, given its size. They can be seen in the rivers and bays in Florida, particularly in the winter months, when they arrive in larger numbers seeking warmer water. Unfortunately, these amazing animals are a threatened species.

The Official State Saltwater Mammal of Florida: Porpoise or Dolphin

You may be thinking that a porpoise and a dolphin are not the same mammals, and you would be correct. However, strange as it seems, when these state saltwater mammals were being designated as such, the legislature said the title belonged to the “porpoise, also commonly known as the dolphin.” The waters around Florida are home to Bottlenose Dolphins and this is likely the animal to which they were referring since true porpoises are not found near Florida.

Where To Find The Top Wild Animals in Florida

There are five separate ecoregions found throughout all of Florida, and many different types of wild animals are found in each one. In Florida, you may see black bears, coyotes, and wolves, or even beavers, badgers, otters, monkeys, turtles, alligators, bobcats, raccoons, white spiders, gopher tortoise, geckos, rodents, scorpions, birds like hawks and eagles, and even some invasive species like the Cuban tree frog or Burmese Python. Aquatic animals can also be found in Florida, but there are no sea snakes in Florida. Read about snakes in Central Florida.

Here are some of the best places to view wildlife in each section of the state:

  • Blue Spring State Park – This park in Orange City is the recommended site for viewing manatees in Florida without a boat. There is a river trail from which you can view the State Marine Mammal, swimming in clear water, from various platforms.
  • Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River is another great place for viewing manatees in Florida, this time by boat or kayak. It is possible to see up to 100 of them at once in certain spots.
  • Navarre Beach Marine Sanctuary – This nature preserve is located in the western section of the Florida panhandle. It is a good place to see sea turtles and other marine life.
  • Everglades National Park – The Everglades in southern Florida are an excellent viewing location for egrets and other waterfowl. You might also see some alligators in the wild!
  • Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – Off the coast east of Orlando, on Florida’s largest barrier island, this refuge is not far from the longest biking trail in Florida. Why not take in the wildlife views at a pedaling pace?

Read about the smallest snakes in Florida and also the biggest snakes in Florida.

Zoos in Florida

The Most Dangerous Animals In Florida Today

Florida has a lot of common dangerous predators, including gators, water snakes, bobcats, venomous snakes, brown snakes, red snakes, yellow snakes, and other ferocious wildlife. Read about the most common (and nonvenomous) snakes in Florida.

Some of the most dangerous wildlife found wild in Florida are:

  • Eastern Rattlesnake – Though not terribly aggressive, their bites can be lethal. Rattlesnakes thankfully rarely bite humans, but when they do, they inject up to 55 percent of their venom in one go. You can read about the largest rattlesnake found in Florida.
  • Black Bear – These bears are quite aggressive, though human encounters are rare.
  • Bobcats – These cats are shy, but they are also stealthy and it is easy to stumble upon one by accident. A scared animal is a dangerous animal.
  • Alligators – While adult humans are not at a large risk from these reptiles unless they get too near a nest, children and pets have been attacked and any encounter with a gator should be avoided, whenever possible.
  • Invasive Species – Invaders like the Cuban tree frog are stealing habitat and food from local native wildlife, as well as killing them off in large numbers.
  • Black Widow – These spiders are perhaps even more common in Florida than in the rest of the southern U.S. They aren’t often fatal, but they do pose a serious danger to small children and some adults.
  • Sharks – New Smyrna beach in Florida is being called the “shark bite capital of the world,” since shark bites are so much more common there than elsewhere.

While Florida has a number of black snakes in the state, they generally pose little danger. Some species of ticks also live in Florida.

Endangered Animals In Florida

Several of the species native to Florida are endangered or threatened. The most endangered animals include:

  • Manatee – Humans with boats are responsible for half of all known manatee fatalities. It is hoped that tighter restrictions on boat speeds in the bays and rivers during the winter and other conservation measures will help restore their numbers.
  • Florida Panther – Habitat loss is their biggest threat, and experts believe their numbers are only around half the amount they need to be in order to survive as a species and avoid extinction.
  • Gray Sea Turtles – Several species of these reptiles can be found in the waters off the coast of Florida, and at least five of them are listed as endangered. Habitat loss, human encroachment, boating, fishing and invasive species all contribute to the declining numbers of these animals.

Rivers in Florida

Florida is home to 25,949 miles of river. These rivers are home to a number of species that can include manatees, alligators, freshwater fish, and even one of the most endangered trees in the world. Let’s take a peek at some of the most important Florida rivers for wildlife.

  • Peace River: An excellent river for fossil hunting. Fossils from recent eras like mammoths, mastodons, bison, and shark teeth are abundant.
  • Indian River – A waterway that is home to 2,200 animal species including 685 fish, manatees, and sea turtles.
  • Apalachicola River – Home to the endangered Florida Torreya, a tree that grows only in the area and is one of the world’s rarest trees with a remaining population of about 200 trees.

Read about:

Floridian Animals

Albino (Amelanistic) Corn Snake

Albino corn snakes great beginner snakes.

Ambrosia Beetle

The ambrosia beetle forms a symbiotic relationship with the ambrosia fungi

American Eel

Don't eat raw eel! Their blood is poisonous to humans when consumed raw.

Armyworm

They are so named because they "march" in armies of worms from one crop to another in search of food

Black Witch Moth

Some folklore associate Black Witch Moths with bad luck (and even death!), while other associates them with good fortune.

Blue Catfish

It's a strong fighter when caught on a fishing line

Burrowing Owl

The burrowing owl lives in underground burrows

Cactus Moth

Cactus moths can cause serious damage to cacti in locations where they have no predators.

Coachwhip Snake

Coachwhip snakes pose little danger to people

Corn Snake

Corn snakes are partly arboreal and are excellent climbers.

De Kay’s Brown Snake

They have specialized jaws for removing snails from shells.

Death’s Head Cockroach

People buy Death's Head Cockroach nymphs and raise them as pets!

Eastern Chipmunk

The name chipmunk is derived from an Ojibwe word that means “one who descends the trees headfirst.”

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

This is the biggest venomous snake in North America, with a few that reach 8 feet long.

Eastern Fence Lizard

Females are usually larger than males.

Eastern Glass Lizard

When the glass lizard loses its tail it can grow another one. But the new tail lacks the markings of the old one and is usually shorter.

Eastern Hognose Snake

Eastern hognose snakes are venomous, but only to frogs and toads.

Eastern Rat snake

Rat snakes are medium-to-large, nonvenomous snakes that kill by constriction.

Eastern Woodrat

The eastern woodrat mating ritual involves a potentially deadly fight between the male and female before reproduction begins!

Flea

Adult fleas can jump up to 7 inches in the air

Florida Woods Cockroach

Often found on palmetto trees

Gopher Tortoise

It is the only species of tortoise native to Florida.

Green Snake

There are two types of green snakes: smooth green snakes and rough green snakes

Harlequin Snake

Red touches yellow kills a fellow, red touches black a friend of Jack.

Indigo Snake

Indigo snakes use brute force to overpower their prey.

Jackrabbit

They can run as fast as 45 mph.

Jonah Crab

It has delicious meat with an affordable price

Key Deer

Bucks grow new antlers every year.

King Snake

King Snakes eat other types of snakes.

Ladyfish

Ladyfish are aggressive fighter when hooked, making them a favorite of anglers.

Lizardfish

The lizardfish can camouflage itself against the sandy bottom to avoid predators.

Mealybug

They have a symbiotic relationship with ants.

Mexican Eagle (Northern crested caracara)

The northern crested caracara mates for life with its partner

Mullet Fish

he Striped Mullet is one of the best-known and most easily identified species, with black horizontal stripes along its body.

Needlefish

no stomach to digest food

Orb Weaver

Females are about four times the size of males

Owl

The owl can rotate its head some 270 degrees

Polyphemus moth

The Polyphemus moth doesn’t eat.

Rat Snakes

Rat snakes are constrictors from the Colubridae family of snakes.

Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-Shouldered Hawks reuse the same nesting area each year.

Rim Rock Crowned Snake

The rim rock crowned snake has mild venom that doesn't hurt people or pets.

Rooster

Will mate with the entire flock!

Seagull

Some gulls are capable of using tools

Sheepshead Fish

This fish has teeth that resemble a human's.

Short-Faced Bear

The modern Spectacled Bear, which lives in South America, is related to the Short-Faced Bear!

Smokybrown Cockroach

Has up to 45 eggs per egg case

Snowberry Clearwing Moth

They are pollinators, just like bees.

Southern Black Racer

These snakes live underground, beneath piles of leaf litter or in thickets, and they are expert swimmers.

Surgeonfish

Paracanthurus hepatus, the palette surgeonfish or bluetang, is the only member of its genus

Whiptail Lizard

Many whiptail species reproduce asexually.

Floridian Animals List

Animals in Florida FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is Florida's famous animal?

Florida is probably most famous for either the alligator, the manatee, or perhaps the dolphin.

What can kill you in Florida?

Gators and venomous snakes and spiders are the most likely to harm or kill a human in Florida.

What scorpions live in Florida?

The most common scorpions in Florida are Hentz striped scorpions. Florida bark scorpions are the largest scorpions in the state while Guiana striped scorpions have a bite that’s considered the most painful.

What aquariums are in Florida?

Florida is home to more than 20 aquariums across the state. A couple of the best aquariums include the Florida Aquarium in Tampa and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Surprisingly, the second-largest aquarium in the United States can be found in Disney World.

What is the weirdest animal in Florida?

Possibly the weirdest animals in Florida are one of the invasive species, such as the Cuban tree frog or the Lionfish, but there are a lot of unique and strange animals in Florida and the water in and around it.

Are there coral snakes in Florida?

Yes, there are venomous coral snakes in Florida. However, there are also a number of other snakes that imitate their coloration but are also nonvenomous. Remember that coral snakes have black faces and the rhyme “red touch yellow, kill a fellow” for distinguishing coral snakes from other species.

What exotic animals live in Florida?

There are unfortunately many exotic species in Florida that are invasive and don’t belong, but one of the rarest exotic non-native non-invasive species found in the West Palm Beach Zoo in Florida is probably the koala.

What invasive species are in Florida?

The most destructive invasive species in Florida is the Burmese python. It’s estimated there may be more than 100,000 of these massive snakes roaming the Everglades. While Burmese pythons have decimated the population of small mammals, it was recently discovered that bobcats have begun eating their eggs. This could be one of the first steps to restoring balance in an ecosystem that has been disrupted by the presence of these large snakes. Wild boars, iguanas and cane toads are some of the other animals invading Florida.

What sharks are in Florida waters?

A study of Florida waters found about 15 sharks that inhabit waters off the state, though more may travel through Florida waters throughout the year. The most common shark in Florida was the nurse shark, followed by the blacktip, lemon, bull, great hammerhead, and sandbar shark. Sharks that are common off Miami Beach include the lemon shark, bull shark, and silky shark.

Where can you see alligators in Florida?

One popular spot for seeing alligators is “Alligator Alley,” a stretch of Interstate that connects the east and west coast of the state between the Miami and Fort Myers area. Beyond that, you can see our list of lakes with the highest concentrations of alligators in Florida.

What are some of the best lakes in Florida?

The best lakes in Florida include Wakulla Springs, which is the deepest known freshwater spring in the world, Lake Kissimmee, which is known for camping, and Lake Apopka.

What fish records are there in Florida?

Associations like the International Fish and Game Association keep a number of records for the largest fish.