On this page - American Alligator, American Crocodile, Gopher Tortoise, Florida Box Turtle, Florida Cooter, Florida Redbelly Turtle, Red-eared Slider, Florida Soft-shell Turtle
American Alligator - Alligator mississippiensis
Male Alligators can grow to 19 feet long and can weigh in at over
1,000 pounds, while females rarely exceed 9 feet and half the weight
Baby Alligators eat a wide variety of insects, crayfish, small fish,
lizards and frogs. Adults will eat all types of prey that comes
within range; fish, turtles, mammals, birds, reptiles and even smaller Alligators.
Habitat - Freshwater swamps, marshes, rivers, lakes. Occasionally
alligators will wander into the brackish water of estuaries but
don't stay long as they are not equipped to live in saltwater.
On occasion an Alligator can become a potential threat, especially if
people start feeding them. Feeding an Alligator or any wild animal teaches
them to associate people with food and can cause them to become aggressive toward people.
If you believe you know of a problem gator or observe someone feeding a gator
you can report it, the FWC Nuisance Alligator Hotline is
American Crocodile - Crocodylus acutus
The American crocodiles historical range reaches its northern limits around
Martin county on the Atlantic coast and Charlotte county on the Gulf coast.
Despite the Crocodiles fearsome reputation and prehistoric appearance, the
American crocodile is rarely seen and is shy by nature, an estimated 400-500
live within Florida.
Threatened by habitat loss, this animal is listed as an Endangered species and
is protected by state and federal law. Males grow to about 15 feet, females 8 to
12 feet. The American crocodile is olive brown to tan in color with a much
longer, narrower snout than the Alligator and an exposed forth tooth on the
Crocodiles will eat just about anything, feeding on fish, turtles, water birds
and any unaware mammal that strays too close including Deer and Feral pigs. The
American crocodile is found primarily in the brackish waters near the mouths of
rivers and in the mangrove swamps of extreme South Florida.
Gopher Tortoise - Gopherus polyphemus
Gopher Tortoise burrows can be found in well drained, sandy soils
of Sandhill, Scrub, Dry Flatwoods & Dry Prairie habitats.
Gopher Tortoises' need open, sunny areas for the plants that they feed
on to grow. The fruit of the Gopher Apple, Saw Palmetto berries, & Blackberries
along with grasses and herbaceous plants make up the bulk of its diet.
Sometimes erroneously referred to as a Gopher
Turtle, the Gopher Tortoise lives to 50 plus years and is considered a "keystone
species", in that over 350 other animals rely on the burrows of the tortoise
as a necessary part of their habitat, including the threatened Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon corais couperi).
Skunk, fox, mice, Gopher Frogs, other frogs
and small invertebrates are frequent visitors to the tortoise burrow.
Tortoise burrows, which are up to 40 feet
long and 10 feet deep are also sometimes the only avenue of escape from
wildfire for many smaller animals.
Burrows are also a good indication of the size of the animal that dug it - the
width of the burrow is the length of the Tortoise, this allows them to
turn around at any point in the burrow.
The entrance of a Gopher Tortoise's burrow is
easily recognized by a low mound of excavated sand, called the apron. The biggest
current threats to the Gopher Tortoise are loss of habitat,
upper respiratory infections & poaching.
Florida Box Turtle - Terrapene carolina bauri
The Florida Box turtle is one of four sub-species of Eastern box
turtle, its range is limited to the
Florida peninsula. Box turtle populations in Florida are on the decline
because of loss of habitat and over-collecting for the pet trade.
Growing to a length of about 7 inches, the Box turtle has a dark brown or
black carapace (upper shell) with striking yellow or cream colored
stripes radiating in a somewhat fan shaped pattern. These turtles have the
ability to almost completely close its shell because of its hinged
plastron (lower part of shell). Box Turtles are land dwelling &
omnivorous, feeding on a variety of vegetation, small animals and eggs.
Box turtle habitat - Sand Pine scrub, Flatwoods, Margins of lakes, ponds, marshes, river
Florida Cooter - Pseudemys floridana
One of the most common turtles in Florida, the Florida Cooter is often seen
sunning itself on the banks of freshwater creeks, ponds or slow moving rivers.
Growing to 15 inches in length this turtle is a herbivore, although juveniles
will eat the occasional insect.
Florida Cooters construct a three part nest on land, digging one deep hole with
two shallower holes to the sides of it. The female lays most of her eggs in the deeper
hole, putting one or two eggs in the shallow holes in an attempt to distract
predators from the main egg cache.
Florida Redbelly Turtle - Pseudemys nelsoni
Common names include - Florida Red-bellied Cooter, Florida Red-bellied turtle.
The Florida Redbelly turtle has an unusual method of protecting its
eggs, it often lays them in an Alligators nest! While this behavior has it
risks, it provides a warm nest that the female 'gator will defend from
Length to 13 inches, average is about 10 inches. Shell is round and domed,
highest at mid-point. Upper shell is dark with reddish bars, lower shell red
tinged when young, older turtles often loses the red belly color. Single yellow
line on top of head. This turtle is omnivorous but feeds mainly on aquatic
Habitat - Prefers freshwater, occasionally found in brackish water. Ponds,
creeks, marshes, swamps, slow moving rivers, always with abundant vegetation.
Red-eared Slider - Trachemys scripta elegans
Not native to Florida, the Red-eared slider is one of the most widely
introduced species of turtle worldwide. In Florida, as with other
non-native species, this turtle competes with native species for food
and habitat. Identified by its unique red or orange stripe on the head,
behind each eye. Adults grow to about 12 inches, males have
elongated front claws. The Red-eared slider can be found in freshwater
lakes, ponds and deepwater Marshes.
Florida Soft-shell Turtle - Apalone ferox
Soft-shell turtles spend their time hiding in the sand or mud waiting to ambush fish, snails and
crayfish or floating beneath the waters surface.
The Florida soft-shell turtle can be found throughout Florida and into Georgia, Alabama and as far north as southern South Carolina.
This unusual turtle has leathery skin growing over a hard shell, a very long neck and an
unpredictable demeanor, these turtles are surprisingly fast, and are capable of delivering a nasty bite. Their neck is also long enough to reach almost to the back of their shell when stretched out.
Juvenile Florida soft-shell turtles are olive yellow with gray spots, adults typically
have blotchy skin and brownish green to tan shells. Females grow over two feet in length, males are somewhat smaller, usually 12-14inches long.