The Everglades is a safe haven for several species of plants and animals. There is no other place in the world that combines a subtropical climate with a shallow, broad river, and stunning biodiversity into a complex ecosystem except for the unique Everglades. The Everglades National Park is the largest surviving subtropical wilderness in the US. It contains one of the highest concentrations of threatened and vulnerable species including mammals and reptiles. There are at least 60 endangered species inhabiting the Everglades National Park. Some of these species act as a major tourist attraction as they can only be found within the Everglades and nowhere else.
Animals of the Everglades
The American alligator is regarded as a “keystone” species in the Everglades. It is an official state reptile of Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The American alligator is relatively large in size with the adult male measuring 11-16 feet in length and can weigh up to 1,320 pounds. The female common alligator is relatively smaller, measuring 9.8 feet. The alligator lives in freshwater wetlands such as marshes and swamps. It feeds on fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals while the hatchings feed on invertebrates. The common alligator is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN in the Everglades due to the conservation efforts that have allowed them to increase in number.
The American Crocodile inhabits the southern half of Florida covered by the Everglades National Park. It is a larger crocodile species with the male measuring about 20 feet in length and weighing up to 2,000 pounds. The females are relatively smaller, measuring about 12 feet in length. The American Crocodile has four snouts, stocky legs, and a strong tail. The eyes and ears are located on top of its head, allowing the rest of the body to be concealed underwater during a surprise attack. Despite the large size, the American crocodile does not attack large mammals but rather feed on fish, reptiles, and small mammals. It is potentially dangerous to human beings but is not as aggressive as other species.
The Everglades is famous for a large number of bird species found there. There are 347 species of birds recorded within the boundaries of the Everglades National Park. The wood stork, one of the species, is a large wading bird that was formerly called Wood ibis. It is classified as a threatened species in the Everglades. A fully grown bird stands at 33-45 inches tall with a wingspan of about 71 inches. Males are typically heavier than females, weighing up to 7.3 pounds. Wood storks favor marshy and swampy areas with cypress trees. It feeds on fish, frogs, and large insects, and catches fish by opening its large bill in water until fish are detected.
The Florida panther favors swamps for a natural habitat, allow they can be found in pinelands as well. Unfortunately, the population of the Florida panther is designated as "critical". Today, they only occupy around 5% of their current range. The Florida panther is the state animal of Florida.
West Indian Manatee
The Indian manatee, a giant herbivore, can be found in the Florida Everglades. As of 2017, manatees are no longer listed as an endangered species. However, it is still listed as threatened. The West Indian manatee can be found in the shallow waters of the Florida Everglades. Unfortunately, as their hearing abilities to not include that of low frequencies, these manatees are sometimes injured by boat propellers.
A mammal known for its high intelligence, bottlenose dolphins can be found in the Florida everglades. They travel through the ocean waters of the Florida Bay in social groups known as "pods". Sightseeing tours are a popular way of spotting the dolphins.
The bald eagle, one of America's most iconic symbols, can be found in the Florida Everglades. Although the range of the bald eagle is quite widespread, they particularly favour wetlands and swamplands, which makes the Everglades the perfect habitat for them. They can periodically be seen soaring high overhead.
The little tree snail is one of the most underrated creatures found in the Florida Everglades. Although it is originally from the Caribbean area, it can be found throughout the Everglades State Park. The snails feed on algae, as well as fungus.
When and Where to View Wildlife at Everglade
The best time to enjoy viewing wildlife in the Everglades is during the dry winter season which occurs between December and April. During this season, the weather conditions are generally favorable and the standing water levels are also low, allowing animals to congregate at central water points. To view alligators and other freshwater wildlife, one will have to access the Shark Valley or Eco Pond. Bird lovers can also enjoy the interaction of birds at the Snake Bight and Chokoloskee Bay. However, visitors are advised to respect wildlife and wildlife habitats.