The Everglades, beaches and subtropical areas of southern Florida constitute a wonderfully diverse ecosystem. While the state is more often thought of as a tourist destination, it is also an ecological paradise, home to a number of species not seen anywhere else in the United States. Some of these species are rare and some are quite common, but all are precious and engaging.
A remarkable success story, the American alligator has gone from being an endangered species to a common sight along the highways and in the waterways of southern Florida. Alligators can grow to over 14 feet and 1,000 pounds. Florida alligators are known for their dangerous bite, quick lunging ability and ominous presence on the water's surface.
The Florida panther is endangered so it is very rare to spot one. It is estimated that there are only 80 to 100 living representatives of this cougar species left in the wild. Recovery efforts are underway to save this tawny cat, but rescue is made difficult by the cat's need for a large habitat.
A unique, burrowing tortoise, the gopher tortoise is integral to the ecosystem. It produces burrows that are used by a number of other native species, including armadillos, snakes and skunks. While only less than a foot in length, the gopher tortoise digs tunnels that extend over 40 feet into the ground.
West Indian Manatee
The West Indian manatee is the largest surviving marine mammal of its type. Found in shallow coastal areas along Florida, the manatee occasionally habituates further inland to estuaries and wetlands. Large, with a distinctive muzzle, the West Indian manatee grazes along sea bottoms. But it is often injured by boat propellers due to its need to surface frequently for air.
Article Written By Louie Doverspike
Based in Seattle, Louie Doverspike has been a professional writer since 2004. His work has appeared in various publications, including "AntiqueWeek" magazine, the "Prague Post" and "Seattle Represent!" Doverspike holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Hamilton College.