Meet 8 Wild Animals of the Corridor
This World Wildlife Day, check out our March Wildness bracket and get to know a few wild friends that call the Corridor home
March 3 is World Wildlife Day, a moment to recognize all of the diverse animals and plants that contribute to the health of our planet. To celebrate Florida’s array of incredible wildlife, we created a “March Wildness” bracket to raise awareness about eight iconic Corridor animals and why they depend on a protected Corridor to survive. Learn more about the wild competitors below before voting begins on March 15 on Instagram @LiveWildlyFL!
Did you know? Currently, 131 at-risk animals live across the Florida Wildlife Corridor and rely on its habitats and passageways every day. As habitat loss continues to be one of the greatest threats to these animals, a connected and protected Corridor is critical for their survival now and in the future.
Team Name: Mighty Manatees
Height/Length: 9 to 13 feet
Weight: 800 to 1,200 lbs.
Where We Live: Fresh or salty coastal waters, including rivers, springs, estuaries and bays
Favorite Corridor Spots: Manatee Springs State Park, Crystal River Preserve State Park and Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
Life motto: “Napping is my cardio”
About Us: We’re Florida natives with gentle, playful and friendly personalities. Some people like to call us “sea cows,” which is funny since our closest relative is an elephant. Our favorite activities are traveling, eating — up to 10% of our bodyweight per day — and napping, which we do between two to 12 hours each day. We love the Corridor because it allows us to migrate safely to warmer waters during winter months.
Florida Black Bear
Team Name: Ballin’ Black Bears
Height/Length: 5 to 6 feet
Weight: 150 to 450 lbs.
Life motto: “The grind never stops”
Where We Live: Flatwoods, swamps, scrub oak ridges and bayheads
Favorite Corridor Spots: Ocala National Forest, Big Cypress National Preserve and Osceola National Forest
About Us: As the largest native mammal and the only bear species in the Sunshine State, you could say we’re pretty unique. Despite our size, we’re excellent tree climbers and eat 80% plant-based — except on cheat days when we splurge on termites and opossums. We like to keep busy and some of us don’t hibernate due to Florida’s warm weather. In order to survive, we need varying habitats and tons of space — an estimated 400,000 acres. Unfortunately, as we travel, cars have become our number one killer, but a fully connected Corridor would provide the space and protection that we need to help us avoid danger.
Florida Scrub Jay
Team Name: Slammin’ Scrub Jays
Height/Length: 9 to 12 inches
Weight: 2.7 oz.
Where We Live: Scrublands
Favorite Corridor Spots: Jonathan Dickinson State Park and Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park
Life motto: ‘Hardcore Homebody”
About Us: As Florida’s only endemic bird (this means you won’t find us anywhere else), we’re still salty that we’re not the state’s official bird. It’s okay — we still love Florida, so much so that we don’t migrate outside the state’s borders! Family is one of the most important things to us, and we stay around to help our parents watch our younger siblings and keep watch for hawks while they look for food. Yet due to dwindling habitats, we’re actually considered endangered right now. A protected Corridor is key to our survival and keeping our families together.
Team Name: Go Go Gopher Tortoises
Height/Length: 9 to 15 inches
Weight: 8 to 15 lbs.
Where We Live: Pastures, urban areas and sandy soils, including longleaf pine sandhills, scrub, pine flatwoods, dry prairies and coastal dunes
Favorite Corridor Spots: Beker – Wingate Creek State Park
Life motto: “I am the OG”
About Us: Our claim to fame is that we’re one of the oldest animal species on the entire planet, dating back 60 million years! We love Florida and the Corridor, and reside in all 67 counties of the state. You could call us homebodies as we spend 80% of our time in our burrows – which might explain why we can live up to 60 years or more. Currently, our homes face threats from increased development. Connecting and protecting the Corridor will help maintain our habitat and safety for generations to come – we’re hoping for another 60 million years!
Team Name: All-arms American Alligators
Height/Length: 8 to 11 feet
Weight: 500 to 1,000 lbs
Where We Live: Lakes, rivers, marshes, swamps, ponds
Favorite Corridor Spots: Everglades National Park and Lake George State Forest
Life motto: “Large and in charge”
About Us: As the official state reptile of Florida, and — in our opinion — the state’s most recognizable animal, we’re used to carrying the spotlight, and deservedly so, if you ask us. We’re one of the fiercest predators in North America and sit atop the food chain almost everywhere we go, so our menu of prey is quite extensive. We eat a range of species from small mammal rodents to fish to turtles, which helps maintain a balanced ecosystem — another reason we’re so great! We can get pretty big ourselves, with half of our bodies usually being our tails. The biggest threat we face is the destruction of our habitats and food sources drying up, so conserving the Corridor ensures we’re around for another million or so years.
Team Name: Rowdy Roseate Spoonbills
Height/Length: 2 to 3 feet
Weight: 2 – 4 lbs
Where We Live: In trees, bushes and brush along the water
Favorite Corridor Spots: Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge
Life motto: “Pretty (awesome) in pink”
About Us: Don’t let our pink color fool you: We’re fighters. Hunted to near-extinction more than a century ago, we’ve bounced back in full force across central and south Florida. We tend to live together in colonies of several dozen — sometimes even hundreds — of us, where there’s plenty to eat; as you may expect, we use our spoon-shaped beaks to scoop up our food. In fact, like our pink-feathered brethren the flamingo, we get our color from our diet of crustacean. Simply put, if the Corridor is flourishing and protected, then we’re flourishing and protected, too.
Team Name: Fightin’ Florida Panthers
Height/Length: 5 to 7 feet
Weight: 60 to 160 lbs
Where We Live: Forest, wetlands, swamps
Favorite Corridor Spots: Big Cypress National Preserve and Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge
Life motto: “You can’t keep us down”
About Us: Despite how highly some of our competitors may think of themselves, we are the official state animal of Florida — and for good reason. We’re the comeback kids or, should I say, the comeback cats! We’re ferocious hunters, and cover a lot of ground as part of our territory; we need up to 200 miles to roam, eat and do our panther thing. There aren’t very many of us, but we’ve come a long way from where we were: In the 1970s, we were down to a squad of just 20 or so panthers; today, we’re rolling pretty deep at a couple hundred. While we’re still endangered, the Corridor has made our comeback story possible, and we need it protected to continue living up to our impressive state title.
Team Name: Ragin’ River Otters
Height/Length: 3 to 4 feet
Weight: 10 – 30 lbs
Where We Live: Fresh water lakes, rivers, streams,
Favorite Corridor Spots: Everglades National Park and Silver Springs State Park
Life motto: “Cute but feisty”
About Us: Who doesn’t love us? We’re cute, playful and can be found in almost every part of Florida. Nothing’s more adorable than a group of us, or a romp of otters. We’re also swimming machines: Our slender bodies are designed to glide underwater, and we can stay down there for as long as eight minutes at a time. That said, despite our loveable demeanors, we don’t mess around when it comes to hunting down food underwater, such as fish and frogs. We’re known to travel on land to new bodies of water in search of food, and sometimes we need to cross roads to get there, so ensuring the Corridor stays safe means we do too.
Don’t forget: Our March Wildness bracket launches on March 6. Visit @LiveWildlyFL on Instagram to vote for your favorite Corridor critter each week!
Photo credits: Grant Ordelheide (Manatee), Alex Freeze (Florida Black Bear, Gopher Tortoise, Florida Panther), Andrew Slaton (American Alligator), Reed Bowman (Florida Scrub Jay), Adam Bass (River Otter), Buddy Weiss (Roseate Spoonbill)