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Endangered Species in Florida You Need to Know

Would you be curious to see a list of endangered species in Florida? Would you like to read some interesting facts about endangered animal species in Florida?

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 allows for identifying, listing, and protecting threatened and endangered species. They designed the law to prevent the extinction of vulnerable animal species through recovery plans and the protection of critical habitats.

How the Law Protects Endangered Species

The ESA administration and enforcement fall under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service jurisdiction. The Secretary of the Interior is allowed by law to allocate funds to states to recover endangered and threatened species.

Also, the law created the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund. This law awards grants to states for voluntary projects on non-federal land.

The law mandates states to adopt their own endangered and threatened species management program. These programs need approval by the federal government.

What Does the Law Want States to Do?

Conserve the species of wildlife or fish as determined by the government to be endangered. Create conservation programs for all species, wildlife, or fish identified by the government as endangered. Provide detailed plans to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Receive authorization from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct investigations for determining status and requirements for survival of the resident species of wildlife and fish. Receive approval before establishing programs to gain aquatic habitats or land for conserving endangered species.

What are endangered species in Florida?

There are 37 endangered animal species in Florida listed below and 26 threatened species.

Bat, Gray

Bat, Gray

The gray bat inhabits caves and feeds over waterways. A significant threat to the gray bat is the disturbance of caves. They use the caves for hibernation and raising their young. Bats in nursing caves cannot tolerate disruption. Bats are abandoning the caves because of increased human presence. They are nocturnal hunters, remaining inactive during the day. Their diet consists of insects.

See Related: Spectacled Bear

Bean, Choctaw

Bean, Choctaw

A freshwater mussel species, it got its name from the Choctaw people, who are Native Americans. This species is from Florida (additional information about mussels to follow).

Butterfly, Bartram’s Hairstreak

Butterfly, Bartram's Hairstreak

This butterfly belongs to the family Lycaenidae. Its habitat is Florida and the West Indies, usually in pine woods. Its wingspan is 22-29 mm, and the upper side is dark gray.

See Related: Malayan Tiger

Butterfly, Florida Leafwing

Butterfly, Florida Leafwing

This butterfly belongs to the family Nymphalidae. Its found in southern Florida and islands of the Caribbean. In Jamaica, they call it the “Jamaican Tropical Leafwing.” In the Cayman Islands and Cuba, it is the “Cuban Red Leaf.” The wingspan is 76-90 millimeters. They feed on rotting fruit, dung, and fluids.

Butterfly, Miami Blue

Butterfly, Miami Blue

These beautiful butterflies became endangered because of habitat loss, fragmentation, group isolation, mortality, and other invasive species. They inhabit tropical hardwood areas, pine rock lands, and beachside scrub areas. This butterfly had been known on the mainland but disappeared by the 1980s.

See Related: Pygmy Three Toed Sloth

Butterfly, Schaus Swallowtail

Butterfly, Schaus Swallowtail

They belong to the family Papilionidae. It is found in southern Florida, with a subspecies in Cuba and the Bahamas. Their habitat is tropical hardwood areas from south Miami to the lower Matecumbe keys. Its name is in honor of William Schaus.

Deer, Key

Deer, Key

They are the smallest of the North American deer. It is a subspecies of the white-tailed deer. The Key Deer habitat is the Florida keys. Passing sailors and early settlers hunted them as a food supply. Hunting them was banned in 1939, but because of habitat destruction and poaching, they were near extinction by the 1950s.

See Related: Hawksbill Sea Turtle

Ebonyshell, Round

Ebonyshell, Round

Species of freshwater mussel. They are native to Florida and a stretch of river in Alabama. It belongs to the family Unionidae.

Kidneyshell, Southern

Kidneyshell, Southern

Species of freshwater mussel. It belongs to the family Unionidae and is found in rivers.

See Related: West African Manatee

Additional Facts About Endangered Florida Mussels

It is interesting to note that because of habitat loss, river dams, pollution, and other factors, fish are no longer available to mussels, causing them to appear on Florida’s list of endangered species. It has left mussel species with limited or nonexistent means of reproduction.

Freshwater and marine mussels are both filler feeders. They feed on plankton and other microscopic creatures that freely float in seawater. A mussel draws water in via its incurrent siphon. Back to the endangered species list in Florida.

Kite, Everglade Snail

Kite, Everglade Snail

It belongs to the family Accipitridae, a bird of prey, including Old World vultures, eagles, and hawks. The adult male has a dark blue-gray color with darker flight feathers. Its legs and cere are red. The female has dark brown upperparts and a streaked pale color on the underside. She has a whitish face, with dark areas above and behind the eyes. The cere and legs are yellow or orange. Water level controls in the Everglades are depleting the population. However, the number of these birds is increasing in Central America.

See Related: Great Hammerhead Shark

Manatee, West Indian

Manatee, West Indian

It is popularly known as a “sea cow.” It is the largest surviving member of the aquatic mammal order Sirenia. Primarily located along the coasts of Florida but can extend as far west as Texas and as far north as Massachusetts. On the endangered animals in Florida list because of loss of warm-water habitat, collisions with watercraft, red tide, high perinatal mortality, and illegal hunting.

Moccasinshell, Gulf

Moccasinshell, Gulf

These are a family of mussels called Unionidae, which are river mussels. Native to Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. Extirpated from most of the rivers it inhabited. It is up to 5.5 centimeters long, with a yellowish or greenish-brown color.

See Related: Great White Shark

Moccasinshell, Ochlockonee

Moccasinshell, Ochlockonee

It belongs to the family Unionidae. Because it is a river mussel, like all Unionidae, its habitat is rivers. It is native to the United States.

Mouse, Anastasia Island Beach

Mouse, Anastasia Island Beach

Subspecies of the Oldfield Mouse. Habitat is the dunes of Florida and Alabama beaches. On Florida’s endangered species list because of the natural and human-induced destruction of its habitat.

See Related: African Wild Dog

Mouse, Choctawhatchee Beach

Mouse, Choctawhatchee Beach

Like the Anastasia Island beach mouse, it is a subspecies of the Oldfield Mouse. It reaches up to 5.5 inches in length. It is a light brown, with a white belly and tail. Continued development along the beaches threatens their habitat along with human traffic on the beaches, hurricanes damaging their habitat, and the hunting of feral cats, foxes, coyotes, and raccoons.

Mouse, Key Largo Cotton

It is the largest subspecies of the cotton mouse. We find it on the peninsulas of Florida. The body length is seven inches with a tail length of three inches. They are brown with reddish-brown sides, white belly, and feet, and the tail is brown on top and white on the bottom.

Additional Facts About Florida Endangered Mice

The mouse population in Florida is on the endangered species list because of habitat loss and fragmentation, thereby increasing other threats. Isolated populations have reduced gene flow and lower survival rates. Trash dumping because of increased urbanization also threatens the mice. The mice compete with black rats for food sources, which increases the threat. Back to the list of endangered species in Florida.

Mouse, Perdido Key Beach

This mouse is a subspecies of the Oldfield Mouse. Habitat is the Perdido Key in Florida. It is small, gray, and white, weighing only .46-.56 oz. Its color blends in well with the white quartz sand of the northern Gulf Coast beaches.

See Related: African Elephant

Mouse, St. Andrew Beach

Mouse, St. Andrew Beach

It is a subspecies of the Oldfield Mouse. It can reach a length of 5.5 inches. It has a yellowish-brown backside, with a buff-colored head and back. Its habitat is the dunes, and it feeds on plant seeds and fruits.

Panther, Florida

Panther, Florida

They live in the Everglades, forests, and swamps of southern Florida. We can find them in hardwood hammocks, pinelands, and swamp forests. Males have a range of 200 square miles, females 75 square miles. In 1982, they chose the Florida panther to be the Florida state animal. Its diet consists of small animals such as mice, rabbits, and waterfowl. It also stalks larger prey, such as white-tailed deer, feral pigs, and storks. It became endangered because it has a natural predator in the American alligator. Human encroachment has made it endangered as well.

How to Protect the Endangered Species in Florida Everglades

Unfortunately, the natural flow of water in the Everglades has been altered by human actions, resulting in the collapse of the ecosystem. Since the 1800’s flood control projects and water diversions have stopped the flow of water between different parts of the Everglades. Large areas of land were converted into residential or agricultural areas.

In 2000, Congress approved the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). It consists of 68 components that will restore, preserve, and protect the resiliency of the Everglades for generations to come. Key projects, such as reservoirs to treat and store Lake Okeechobee’s overflow, and efforts to restore the natural flows by bridging, will work in harmony to achieve a comprehensive and lasting restoration of the Everglades for years to come. Back to what are some endangered species in Florida.

Pigtoe, Oval

Pigtoe, Oval

It belongs to the Unionidae family of river mussels. Native to Florida, Alabama, and Georgia. Populations have declined because of land-use changes and the construction of dams.

Pocketbook, Shinyrayed

Pocketbook Shinyrayed

It belongs to the Unionidae family. It has a subelliptical shell with an inflated umbos and a rounded posterior ridge. It prefers clean, flowing water in streams and small rivers.

Rabbit, Lower Keys Marsh

Rabbit, Lower Keys Marsh

It is the smallest subspecies of marsh rabbits, 15 inches long, and weighs up to 3 pounds. They live in the grassy areas around freshwater wetlands and salt marshes. This habitat offers tall grasses and provides food, nesting sites, and shelter. These are nocturnal animals and became endangered in 1990 because of habitat loss, degradation, and mortality because of free-roaming cats and vehicles.

Rice Rat, Lower FL Keys

Rice Rat, Lower FL Keys

It is also known as the silver rice rat. It is a small wetland rodent unique to the Lower Keys, Florida. It differs from a marsh rice rat by its rarity, larger home range size, larger body size, and lower fecundity. It was listed on the Florida endangered species list because commercial and residential construction activities destroyed its wetland habitat.

Salamander, Reticulated Flatwoods

Salamander, Reticulated Flatwoods

It is a species of mole salamander. It is part of the amphibian family Ambystomatidae. Native to a small portion of the United States’ southeastern coastal plain and Florida’s western panhandle. Habitat loss is the primary reason behind the decline of salamanders in the United States.

Sawfish, Smalltooth

Sawfish, Smalltooth

This critically endangered sawfish is in the family Pristidae. Habitat is in shallow tropical and subtropical waters in the coastal Atlantic. Extremely vulnerable because of overexploitation, restricted habitat, the tendency of getting caught in nets, and low population growth.

Sea Turtle, Hawksbills

Sea Turtle, Hawksbills

Their name is for their narrow, pointed beaks. They have a unique pattern of intersecting scales on their shells, which form a serrated look at the edge. The colored and patterned shells make them valuable and are commonly sold as “tortoiseshells.”

Additional Facts About Florida Endangered Sea Turtles

Sea turtles are living representatives of reptiles that have existed on earth and traveled in the sea for millions of years. They are a link in marine ecosystems and help maintain health in the coral reefs and seagrass beds.

This turtle comes in a variety of sizes and colors. But the one thing they have in common is the reason for their endangered status. Besides accidental capture in longlines, traps, shrimp trawls, gill nets, dredges, a threatened nesting habitat is a primary threat. Also, poaching of turtle eggs from nesting spots and ingestion of plastics and pollutants are factors. Back to the endangered species list in Florida.

Sea Turtle, Kemp’s Ridley

Sea Turtle, Kemp's Ridley

They are the most seriously endangered of the sea turtles. They are dark purple when hatched. Mature adults have a yellow-green or white plastron and a gray-green carapace. They have a triangular-shaped head with a hooked beak. This animal is the only sea turtle that nests during the day.

Sea Turtle, Leatherback

Sea Turtle, Leatherback

Largest of all living turtles. This animal is the fourth heaviest reptile behind three varieties of crocodiles. They have experienced a 95% decline in their nesting populations.

Sparrow, Cape Sable Seaside

Sparrow, Cape Sable Seaside

Everglades National Park is home to one of eight remaining subspecies of the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow. Its name is for the southernmost point of land in the continental United States. Changes in the water distribution in the Everglades and the hurricane of 1935 have caused dramatic changes in plant life on Cape Sable. Now dominated by salt-tolerant plants, a rise in the sea level, reduced flowing fresh water, and another hurricane in 1960 have contributed to the habitat change, causing endangerment.

Sparrow, Florida Grasshopper

Sparrow, Florida Grasshopper

It is native to the dry prairies of south-central Florida. Most endangered of the four subspecies of grasshopper sparrows. Biologists’ attempts to improve the declining population have been unsuccessful. The song of the sparrow sounds like a grasshopper, which is where it gets its name.

Threeridge, Fat (mussel)

Threeridge, Fat (mussel)

It is a mid-sized freshwater mussel that can get up to four inches. The outer shell color is dark brown to black, with seven to nine horizontal ridges. The mussel has two teeth in the left valve and a smaller and larger tooth in the right valve.

Vole, Florida Salt Marsh

Vole, Florida Salt Marsh

It is a mid-size rodent up to 7.3 inches in length, with a tail of 2 inches. The vole has a dark brown back, silver belly, small ears covered by hair, and has a broad, short snout. Its diet consists of plants, mostly grasses. Their primary habitat is unknown, but we have found them only in saltgrass meadows next to black needlerush. Researchers, scientists, and the like have only discovered two groups—one near Cedar Key and the second at Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge in the Big Bend Region. A major threat is its limited range, as any change in the environment could cause its extinction. Human interference and rising sea level are also a threat.

Warbler, Bachman’s

Warbler, Bachman's

It is one of the smallest warblers. The bill is slender with a downward curve. The male is olive-green, with a yellow chin, lores, forehead, eye ring and underparts. It has a black crown and throat, with a bright rump and yellow shoulder patch. Females are quite drab in comparison, lacking color. The habitat is unknown because of their small numbers when investigations began. It is thought they nested in low, wet forest areas with access to water.

Wolf, Red

Wolf, Red

It is the world’s most endangered wolf. It was once common in the Eastern and South Central United States. The population decreased by the early 20th century because of predator control programs and habitat degradation. Only about 20 red wolves remain in their habitat.

Woodpecker, Red-Cockaded

Woodpecker, Red-Cockaded

It is the size of a cardinal, about 7 inches long. The wingspan is about 15 inches. Its back has black and white horizontal stripes. Its unique feature is a black cap and nape that encircle white cheek patches. The male woodpecker has a small red streak on each side of the black cap called a cockade. Their habitat is in mature pine forests. They prefer longleaf pines. Because the longleaf pine ecosystem has disappeared from much of its original range, it has caused this bird to become endangered.

Woodrat, Key Largo

Woodrat, Key Largo

It lives in tropical hardwood hammocks on Key Largo. This small rodent had a range throughout all of Key Largo but is limited today to the northern sections. It is known for constructing large stick houses, making them dependent on their surroundings’ natural vegetation. Much of their remaining habitat is now protected. Because there has been a reduction in its full range and habitat, it endangers this animal’s future.

 

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