Florida has an interesting diversity of mammals. Habitat conservation during development design is an important consideration for long-term protection of mammals. The following pages focus on several species of mammals found in Florida.
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. Conservation measures for the Florida black bear include maintaining a sustainable population statewide, maintaining 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.
The Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi, FE) is currently isolated to south Florida but historically occurred throughout the Southeastern United States. 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 conversion, degradation, and fragmentation of their habitats. Collisions and road mortalities are increasing.
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 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. 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 boat traffic from construction of new marinas.
Manatees are protected under several legislative acts. 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.” 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.
- Standard Construction Conditions for In-Water Work (FWC and USFWS)
- Manatee Protection Areas (USFWS)
- Florida Manatee Resources (USFWS)
- Florida Manatee Program (FWC)
- County Manatee Protection Plans (FWC)
- Effect Determination Key [United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)]
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. Rapid urbanization of southwest Florida has resulted in extreme habitat loss and fragmentation for this subspecies. 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.
Presence of these species are best surveyed with methods of visual observations for signs (e.g. nests, stripped pine cones) and camera 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 and land use conversion). Recommended conservation practices to benefit this species include maintaining or restoring hydrology in suitable areas, avoiding construction of 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. 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 shrew (Blarina shermani, ST) is found in Collier and Lee counties. They live in dense, herbaceous habitats and moist forests. Their primary threats are habitat degradation and loss to agriculture and development.
Florida salt marsh vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus dukecampbelli, FE) is found exclusively in Levy County. The only populations are in Cedar Key and Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge. The salt marsh where they are known to occur is dominated by salt grass (Distichlis spicata). Their small population and limited range leave them extremely vulnerable to storms and changes in sea level.
The rice rat (Oryzomys palustris natator, FE) is found in the Lower Keys of Florida. They typically use 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 have also caused populations to decline significantly.
- 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)
- Conservation Measures for Dune Walkover Construction (FDEP)Conservation Measures for Dune Walkover Construction (USFWS)
- Living with Beach Mice (FWC)
The Florida bonneted bat (Eumops floridanus, FE) is a species found in South Florida. 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 and habitat loss.
The gray bat (Myotis grisescens, FE) is 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. The major threat to gray bats is human disturbance. 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.