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.
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, sea turtles, Alligator, bobcat, raccoon, gopher tortoise, rodents, and even some invasive species like the Cuban tree frog or Burmese Python.
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!
Zoos in Florida
- Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens –
- Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens – Jacksonville, FL
- Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society – Palm Beach, FL
- Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo – Tampa, FL
- Lion Country Safari – Palm Beach County, FL
The Most Dangerous Animals In Florida Today
Florida has a lot of common dangerous predators, including gators, bobcats, and other ferocious wildlife. 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.
- 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.
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.
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 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.
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.