The Everglades and cypress swamps of southern Florida provide one of the last refuges in the eastern United States for a number of wild animals. Among the most rarely seen there is the so-called Florida panther; the only cougar found east of the Mississippi today, it is classified as an endangered species and protected by state and federal law. The black bear is numerous in northern forests. The white-tailed deer is common throughout the state. The tiny Key deer, found only in the lower Keys, is protected by state and federal law. Other animals in the state include the gray squirrel, fox squirrel, cottontail rabbit, marsh rabbit, gray fox, raccoon, opossum, bobcat, and nine-banded armadillo. Wild pigs, descendants of domestic hogs that escaped into the wilderness, are found in some swampy areas. The manatee, or sea cow, a marine animal that was once hunted almost to extinction, is still occasionally seen along the bays and river estuaries of Florida.
Reptiles flourish in Florida. Alligators are numerous in the rivers, lakes, and swamps throughout the state, and occasionally, crocodiles are seen in coastal inlets at the southern tip of the peninsula. Both are protected by law, but a limited harvest of alligators is permitted. Snakes are found in large numbers, but only a few species are poisonous. They are the coral snake, the water moccasin, or cottonmouth, and two species of rattlesnakes. Marine turtles are found along the coast, and land turtles are sometimes seen inland. An estimated 400 species of birds are native to Florida. Among the water birds found there are the roseate spoonbill, the anhinga, or water turkey, several species of egrets, and herons. The brown pelican is common, and the white pelican is occasionally seen soaring effortlessly in the sky.
Florida also has many species of vireos, warblers, hawks, and sparrows. The mockingbird is Florida’s state bird. Among the unusual or rare birds of Florida are the white-crowned pigeon, the mangrove cuckoo, and the Florida jay, which has never been recorded outside of Florida.
Major game birds include the turkey, mourning dove, bobwhite quail, and waterfowl such as ducks and geese.
Saltwater fish along Florida’s coasts include the barracuda, sailfish, tarpon, bonefish, pompano, black mullet, red snapper, gray snapper, menhaden, marlin, wahoo, weakfish, amberjack, sea bass, and snook. Most of them are game or food fish. In addition, many brightly colored tropical fish are found in Florida waters, and dolphins and sharks are common along both coasts. Freshwater fish include the black bass, speckled perch, bream, and bluegill.
Shellfish include shrimp, crab, spiny lobster, oyster, scallop, conch, and coquina (small clams). The most substantial bed of living corals in the United States outside Hawaii is found along the southern tip of the peninsula and off the Florida Keys. "Florida" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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