In case you’ve never been to Wild Florida Gator Park, there are more than 200 animals that call it “home.” Half of the park consists of exotic animals such as two-toed sloths, ring-tailed lemurs, watusis, and zebras to give locals a chance to learn about animals located around the world. The other half showcases all the animals native to Florida that provide visitors from different countries (and maybe even a few locals) a chance to learn something new about Florida’s ecosystem. Take a look at the Florida natives to visit at Wild Florida.
1. American Alligator
In the heart of the Gator Park is a Gator Pond with more than 150 freshwater American alligators and crocodiles inside. Most of the alligators in the Gator Pond are actually labeled “nuisance” alligators by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) and were relocated to Wild Florida because they lost their natural fear of humans and would’ve been euthanized if left in the wild. After you’re done visiting the gators and crocs, make sure to visit Crusher, the biggest alligator at Wild Florida! Because he measures in at 1,000 pounds and a whopping 13.5 feet long, he has his own exhibit where he has plenty of room to sunbathe or cool off in his pond.
2. White-Tailed Deer
Near the back of the Gator Park, you’ll find the white-tailed deer exhibit. While white-tailed deer aren’t unique to just Florida, they are the most abundant species of deer in the state. You’ll notice that there are more Does than Bucks in the exhibit. This is to mimic their most natural social group, which is known as matrilineal. This social group consists of a Doe, her female offspring of previous years, and their Fawns.
3. Alligator Snapping Turtle
One creature that you may have never heard of is the alligator snapping turtle. Measuring in length at about 29 inches, the alligator snapping turtle can weigh up to as much as 200 pounds and has a bite force of up to 1,000 psi, making it number 13 on the list of animals with the strongest bite force.
4. Red Fox
Another animal you can meet inside Wild Florida Gator Park is the iconic red fox. Everyone knows foxes are elusive and quick, but did you know that they actually give the skunk a run for its money in terms of how stinky they can be? These foxes, Chandler and Phoebe, are some of the stinkiest critters who live in the park! Don’t believe it? Make sure to stop by their exhibit and smell for yourself!
5. Florida Panther
In August 2017, Nala the Florida panther was welcomed into the Wild Florida family. As one of the most endangered species in Florida, she is considered the park’s “panther ambassador.” Her role at the Gator Park is to give people a unique opportunity to see this iconic big cat up close and learn more about how humans can positively impact her species. If this would be your first time seeing a Florida panther up close, don’t feel alone. There are currently less than 300 panthers in the wild, and they are primarily located in South Florida. So, there are probably even locals who haven’t seen a panther this close!
6. American Crocodile
Because freshwater crocodiles are primarily found in South Florida, it’s very rare for people, even locals, to spot them in the wild. While there are predominately more alligators inside the Gator Pond, there are a few crocodiles you can see during your visit. One of the easiest ways to distinguish a crocodile from an alligator is by looking at the shape of their snout. Unlike alligators, whose snouts are wider and have a U-shaped look, crocodiles have a more pointed, V-shaped snout.
Located in between the raccoon and white-tailed deer exhibits, you’ll find yourself in front of Duke’s exhibit. The Wild Florida team has a unique bond with all of their animals, however, their bobcat, Duke, has a special place in their hearts as they have raised him since he was a kitten. While bobcats are technically considered wild animals, that doesn’t mean Duke doesn’t like to play as much as your average house cat. Depending on when you visit (and Duke’s mood), you might get to see this big cat play with some of the animal enrichment toys.
Most famous for its appearance in Disney’s ‘Pocahontas,’ the raccoon is a fan favorite Florida native. Easily distinguished because of their “bandit mask,” raccoons are nocturnal, which means they are typically more active at night. So if you see them napping during your visit, don’t take it personally, they were probably playing all night long!
So there you go! a great place to start with the 8 Florida natives to visit at Wild Florida.
If you want to see more Florida animals and Everglades wildlife, you might want to consider going on an airboat tour during your visit. With more than 80 different species of wildlife and foliage living in or around Lake Cypress alone, there’s no telling what you might see during your airboat tour. But, if you’re short on time, a tour around the Gator Park is a great way to learn more about Florida’s native wildlife and animals found across the world.