Florida has an interesting diversity of mammals. Some species are endemic to Florida, such as Key Largo woodrat, Florida mouse, Florida mastiff bat, and Florida panther. Many species of mammals are impacted by habitat loss and degradation and the introduction of non-native predators. Some species can be attracted to urban areas and therefore, habitat conservation during development design is an important consideration for long-term protection. The following pages include several species of mammals found in Florida, occasionally grouped by taxonomic categories or habitat categories.
The Florida black bear (Ursus americanus floridanus) is one of 16 subspecies of American black bear and the only species of bear found in Florida. Black bears occupy a variety of habitats and selection is dependent on abundant food sources. They have an omnivorous diet and often take advantage of seasonally abundant fruits, nuts, and insects. Occasionally they will scavenge dead animals or opportunistically prey on small mammals.
Bears mate from June to August and experience delayed implantation where fertilized eggs will temporarily cease development until final implantation in November or December. Females will then enter winter dens to give birth and typically emerge with their cubs in April.
Conservation measures for the Florida black bear include maintaining a sustainable population statewide, maintain habitat quantity, quality, and connectivity, reducing human-bear conflicts, and promoting outreach and education.
As bear populations increase, more human-bear interactions are likely to occur. Bears frequently take advantage of trash, pet food, feeders, etc. that people leave out. Educational materials and tools, like bear-resistant trashcans, are available to remove attractants and reduce human-bear conflicts. When bears are seen in neighborhoods, residents are encouraged make loud noises to scare the bears away from human-occupied areas. Habituated bears, those who become accustomed to urban areas, can occasionally pose safety risks.
The Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi, FE) is currently isolated to south Florida but historically occurred throughout the Southeastern United States. It is a large cat with tan, unspotted fur and a long tail. In 2017, the USFWS estimated that the Florida panther population numbered 120-230 individuals. Their primary breeding range is considered to be south of the Caloosahatchee River, however it has recently expanded north of this boundary. They prefer habitats of forested communities and wetlands and use palmetto thickets for denning. Kittens have spots and blue eyes, but these features generally fade by six months of age.
Their carnivorous diet consists mainly of white-tailed deer and feral hog, but will also consume raccoons, armadillos, marsh rabbits, and alligators. Panthers have also been documented to kill livestock, which can present a human-wildlife conflict. FWC’s Living with Panthers information includes precautions to avoid conflicts with panthers, such as keeping pets and livestock secure, remaining alert when outside, and removing dense vegetation near your house.
The greatest threats to Florida panthers are loss, degradation, and fragmentation of their habitat; however, intolerance may prevent their recovery. Collisions and road mortalities are increasing. In 2016, a record of 31 panthers were killed due to vehicle collisions.
The West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus, FT), also known as the Florida manatee, inhabits fresh, brackish, and saltwater areas along the coasts of Florida. They feed on floating, emergent, and bank vegetation, and seek freshwater to drink. They cannot tolerate prolonged temperatures below 16°C (61°F) and seek warm-water areas to avoid cold-related stress and death. They seek out springs that naturally stay at about 72°F throughout the year and warm-water outfalls from power plants.
Major threats to manatees include watercraft strikes and loss of warm-water habitats. Watercraft collisions continue to be the greatest threat to manatee survival. In 2017, a new record of 106 manatees died from watercraft-inflicted injuries. As power plants age, retire, or change in operations, man-made warm-water habitats may disappear and result in cold-related mortalities in manatees who migrate to those locations. Other threats include crushing risks by large vessels, entrapment in culverts, pipes, and storm water areas, and increased risk with increased boat traffic from construction of new marinas.
Manatees are protected under several legislative acts including the Endangered Species Act, Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the Florida Endangered and Threatened Species Act. Specifically, the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act declares the entire State of Florida to be a manatee “refuge and sanctuary,” and it is unlawful to intentionally or negligently “annoy, molest, harass, or disturb or attempt to molest, harass, or disturb any manatee.” It also authorizes the FWC to regulate operation and speed of motorboat traffic where manatee sightings are frequent. The FWC is authorized to issue permits that allow persons to operate at higher speeds than otherwise allowed in manatee speed protected zones or perform certain activities not normally allowed. Examples of these activities and more information can be found at FWC’s manatee Permit Review website. For additional permit information on dredging, filling, shoreline stabilization, and construction of in-water structures (e.g. docks, boat ramps, etc.) visit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Determination Key.
The Big Cypress fox squirrel (BCFS) (Sciurus niger avicennia, ST) is an endemic subspecies of eastern fox squirrel. It has a restricted geographic range in southwest Florida, and inhabits natural, rural, and urbanized habitats. BCFS are known to use a range of habitats including tropical hardwood forest, live oak forest, mangrove forest, cypress swamp, pine flatwoods, and suburban habitats, especially golf courses. A large majority of BCFS nests are in bald cypress trees but BCFS nests have been found in slash pine and cabbage palm trees. Breeding can occur year-round but BCFS are most productive from November to February as well as April through July. Rapid urbanization of southwest Florida has resulted in habitat loss and fragmentation for this subspecies.
Presence of these species have been investigated with methods of visual observations/signs (e.g. nests, stripped pine cones), camera trapping, and live trapping. More information about surveying and avoidance guidelines can be found in the Conservation Measures and Permitting Guidelines.
The Everglades mink (Neovison vison evergladensis, ST) can be found in both fresh and salt water marsh habitats in the Everglades and Big Cypress. They are dependent on wetlands for foraging and raising young but change their use dependent on the season. In the dry season, they are more likely to use freshwater swamp forest where food sources become more concentrated. Their primary threats are altered hydrology and other habitat modifications (e.g. logging, land use conversion). Recommended conservation practices to benefit this species include maintaining or restoring hydrology in suitable areas, avoid placing impermeable surfaces near wetlands, and implementing prescribed fire in appropriate habitats.
- Species Conservation Measures and Permitting Guidelines: Everglades Mink (FWC)
- Species Action Plan: Everglades Mink (FWC)
The Sanibel Island rice rat (Oryzomys palustris sanibeli, ST) is a rodent found only on Sanibel Island. It is brown in coloration with a white underside and white feet. They can be found in marshes, hydric hammocks, swamps, and meadows. Sanibel Island rice rats are threatened by habitat loss, urbanization, predation, and competition with black rats.
Sherman’s short-tailed shrews (Blarina shermani, ST) are found in Collier and Lee counties. They are about 4 inches long with grayish-black fur and small eyes and ears. They live in dense, herbaceous habitats and moist forests. Their primary threats are habitat degradation and loss to agriculture and development.
Florida salt marsh voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus dukecampbelli, FE) are found exclusively in Levy County. The only populations are in Cedar Key and Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge. The salt marsh where it is known to occur is dominated by salt grass (Distichlis spicata). Their small population and limited range leaves them extremely vulnerable to storms and changes in sea level.
Rice rats (Oryzomys palustris natator, FE) are a 5.5 inch, brownish-gray rodent that is found in the Lower Keys of Florida. It typically uses low intertidal areas, salt marshes, and buttonwood transition areas. They require large, contiguous areas of mangroves and salt marsh.
The Perdido key (Peromyscus polionotus trissyllepsis, FE), Choctawhatchee (Peromyscus polionotus allophrys, FE), and St. Andrew beach mice (Peromyscus polionotus peninsularis, FE) are found in the Florida Panhandle. The Anastasia Island beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus phasma, FE) is found only on Anastasia Island in St. Johns County. The Southeastern beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus niveiventris, FT) is found along the Atlantic Coast of Florida from Volusia to Martin counties.
Beach mice construct two- to three-foot burrows in the sandy dunes along the Florida coast. They can be found both in open primary dunes and densely vegetated secondary dunes along the beach. The primary threat to beach mice is coastal development. Construction removes vegetation from the dunes and makes the area more susceptible to wind and water erosion. Development also isolates beach mice populations, making them more vulnerable to local extinction. Introduced predators, such as feral cats and foxes, have also caused populations to decline. Preservation of sand dune habitat is critical to the protection of these species.
- Living with Beach Mice (FWC)
- Conservation Measures for Dune Walkover Construction (USFWS)
- Panama City: Beach Mice (USFWS)
- Recovery Plan: Perdido Key Beach Mouse (USFWS)
- Recovery Plan: Choctawhatchee Beach Mouse (USFWS)
- Recovery Plan: St. Andrew Beach Mouse (USFWS)
- Recovery Plan: Anastasia Island and Southeastern Beach Mouse (USFWS)
Florida bonneted bats (Eumops floridanus, FE) are a species found in south Florida. They are characterized by their large body size, large slanted ears that cover the eyes and are joined at the base. They have been found in both natural and artificial roosts such as palm fronds, tree cavities, buildings, bridges, and bat houses. The primary threats to bonneted bats are small population size, habitat loss, and potential impacts from mosquito pesticides.
Gray bats (Myotis grisescens, FE) are found in caves and over waterways in the Southeast. In Florida, they can be found in the Panhandle. Most gray bats migrate between hibernating and maternity caves. They strictly roost in caves, with fewer than 5% of caves being suitable for their needs. Winter caves are deep and vertical to trap cold air, whereas summer caves are located near foraging areas by waterways. The major threat to gray bats is human disturbance. If gray bats are disturbed during hibernation or nursing, they will panic, expend energy reserves, and abandon young. The primary conservation objective of the USFWS is to prevent disturbance of roosting habitats by protecting those caves. Disease, particularly white-nose syndrome, is also a potential threat to gray bats, but it has not been detected in Florida.