U.S. Wildlife Guide: Everglades National Park Animals

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Are you planning a family adventure filled with wildlife encounters and breathtaking natural beauty? Look no further than Everglades National Park!

Spanning over 2,000 square miles in south Florida, the Everglades are home to a stunning array of animals, from gentle manatees to elusive panthers. This park promises an unforgettable experience for parents and kids alike.

To help you make the most of your trip, we’ve crafted a family-friendly guide to the incredible animals of the Florida Everglades…including a printable wildlife Bingo card, especially for the Everglades!

In this guide, we’ll take you on a journey through the diverse animal kingdom of the Everglades, sharing fascinating facts, conservation insights, and tips for a safe and memorable visit.

So, let’s dive into the world of these remarkable creatures!

sign at entrance of Everglades National Park in FloridaPin
Welcome to the Everglades!


American Alligator

The American alligator, a true giant of the Everglades, is an incredible reptile you and your kids will want to see. Here are some interesting facts:

  1. Size: Adult male alligators can reach up to 13 to 15 feet in length, while females are generally smaller, around 10 feet.
  2. Habitat: These formidable reptiles are found in freshwater swamps, marshes, rivers, lakes, and even brackish water around mangrove swamps.
  3. Diet: Alligators are opportunistic eaters, dining on fish, turtles, small mammals, birds, and even smaller alligators!
  4. Nesting: Female alligators build nests above water to protect their eggs from flooding, and they remain near the nest during the incubation period.

Your family might spot these impressive creatures basking in the sun or lurking near the water’s edge. Remember to maintain a safe distance and never feed or provoke them.

american alligator in waterPin
American Alligator

American Crocodile

The American crocodile is another intriguing reptile inhabiting the park, although it’s less commonly seen. Here’s what you should know:

  1. Size: Male American crocodiles can grow up to 20 feet, while females are smaller at 8 to 12 feet.
  2. Habitat: Unlike alligators, crocodiles prefer coastal, brackish, and salt-water habitats.
  3. Behavior: They are shy and rarely pose a threat to humans unless provoked.

Keep an eye out for these reptiles, characterized by their lizard-shaped bodies and long, muscular tails, especially if you’re exploring coastal areas.

american crocodile with mouth openPin
American Crocodile

Eastern Indigo Snake

The eastern indigo snake is one of the most captivating of the 25+ species of snakes in the park. Here’s why it’s worth seeking out:

  • Size: These snakes can reach lengths of almost 9 feet, making them the longest native snakes in the United States.
  • Habitat: You’re likely to find them in sandhill habitats, pine and scrubby flatwoods, and tropical hardwood hammocks.
  • Diet: They have a varied diet, including fish, frogs, snakes, birds, and small mammals.

If your family enjoys wildlife photography, spotting an eastern indigo snake can be a thrilling moment.

Don’t be surprised if you see other species of snakes in the Everglades as well. There are over 30 different kinds of snakes here including invasive species not native to Florida such as the boa contractor and the Burmese python.

eastern indigo snake in palm leavesPin
Eastern Indigo Snake

Sea Turtles

Everglades National Park is home to several sea turtle species, and witnessing their nesting and hatchling journeys can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Species: Loggerhead, green, leatherback, Kemp’s ridley, and hawksbill sea turtles can be found in these waters.
  • Nesting: Sea turtles often nest on Cape Sable’s beaches, with biologists monitoring their nesting activity.
  • Protection: It is illegal to disturb sea turtles or their nests, so please be respectful and report any issues to park rangers.

If you’re visiting during nesting season (from March to October), you might be lucky enough to witness a sea turtle crawl or even spot hatchlings making their way to the ocean.

loggerhead sea turtlePin

Threats to Sea Turtles: How You Can Help

While exploring the park’s sea turtles, it’s essential to be aware of the threats these magnificent creatures face. Some of these threats include:

  • Human activities: Harvesting, accidental capture in fishing nets, vessel strikes, and plastic pollution.
  • Coastal development: Sea walls, artificial lighting, and beach nourishment can disrupt nesting and foraging habitats.
  • Climate change: Rising sea levels and temperature fluctuations affect nesting beaches and sex ratios.
leatherback sea turtle walking in the sandPin
baby leatherback sea turtle

Mammals of the Wetlands

White-Tailed Deer

Did you know that you can spot white-tailed deer foraging in the sawgrass prairie of the Everglades?

These graceful creatures are a common sight in the park, and their adaptability to the wetlands is truly remarkable. Everglades deer are smaller than their northern relatives, thanks to the milder climate.

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white-tailed deer

Marsh Rabbit

Have you ever seen a rabbit swimming? The marsh rabbit is a unique resident of the park, often found in freshwater marshes, pinelands, and coastal prairies.

It has adapted to the “wet world” of the Everglades, making it a fascinating creature to observe.

marsh rabbit walking in swampPin
Marsh Rabbit

River Otters

Meet the playboys of the ‘glades! River otters are streamlined, seal-like animals often seen at places like the Anhinga Trail and Shark Valley.

Watch them swim gracefully through the water as they feed on turtles, fish, and the occasional baby gator.

florida river otterPin
Florida River Otter

Gray Fox

Did you know that the gray fox can climb trees? Unlike most foxes, the gray fox is an adept tree climber. It prefers hardwood hammocks and makes its den in the ground under roots and in tree hollows.

gray foxPin
Gray Fox

West Indian Manatee

Getting to Know the Manatee

The West Indian manatee might not win any beauty contests, but it’s undeniably adorable. These gentle marine creatures, lovingly known as sea cows, can be spotted in the waters of the Everglades including the Florida Bay.

This threatened species primarily grazes on seagrasses and other aquatic plants, occasionally indulging in fish.

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West Indian Manatee

Conservation Status

The conservation efforts that have led to the downlisting of manatees from endangered to threatened have been instrumental in protecting this gentle giant.

These initiatives include habitat preservation, boating regulations, and rescue and rehabilitation programs.

Manatee Research

Scientists in the Everglades monitor manatees through various methods, including tagging, tracking, and health evaluations.

They attach tracking devices to individual manatees to monitor their movements, migration patterns, and habitat use.

Health evaluations, often conducted during rescue and rehabilitation efforts, help assess the overall well-being of manatee populations, ensuring that conservation measures remain effective in safeguarding these beloved marine mammals.

You might even get a chance to witness their research efforts during your visit.

west indies manatee swimming with apparent boat strike scarPin
manatee with apparent boat strike scar on its’ back

Florida Panther: A Rare and Majestic Sight

The Plight of the Florida Panther

The Florida panther was once common in the southeastern United States but is now endangered due to habitat loss and other threats. To help them survive, it’s essential to protect their habitats, like forests, where they find shelter and food.

florida pantherPin
Florida Panther

Panther’s Diet and Habitat

Florida panthers in the Everglades primarily feed on deer and other small mammals. This carnivorous diet is crucial to their survival in the park’s unique ecosystem.

The forests of the park are the best places to spot panthers because these regions offer and abundance of deer and the small mammals that panther consider food. These areas of the park are essential to the survival of the Florida panther.

Genetic Restoration Success

The genetic restoration program in the Everglades has been a remarkable success, saving the Florida panther population from the brink of extinction.

Through collaborative efforts and innovative conservation, scientists have improved the genetic diversity of the panther population, making it healthier and more resilient for future generations in the park.

one of the more elusive everglades national park animals: a florida panther behind some brushPin
one of the more elusive Everglades National Park animals: a Florida panther

Black Bears

In Everglades National Park, you may encounter Florida black bears in the park, a fascinating subspecies of the American black bear.

These bears are known for their distinctive black fur and can weigh between 250 to 450 pounds, although some individuals can grow larger.

While encounters with black bears in the park are relatively rare, it’s crucial to follow proper food storage and disposal practices to minimize human-bear conflicts and ensure the safety of both visitors and these magnificent creatures.

Remember that bears are an integral part of the park’s ecosystem and should be observed from a respectful distance to preserve their natural behaviors.

black bear in FloridaPin

Proper Food Storage

Understanding the importance of proper food storage and garbage disposal is key to coexisting safely with bears in the park.

  • Store all food, garbage, and toiletries securely in bear-resistant containers, provided by the park, or in your vehicle’s trunk.
  • Do not leave any food or scented items unattended at your campsite, picnic area, or any other place in the park.
  • Utilize designated food storage lockers and containers in campgrounds and backcountry campsites.

What Is Considered “Food”?

Understand what items are considered food by bears. This includes not only traditional food but also scented items like toothpaste, sunscreen, and even items like empty coolers or food wrappers.

Be meticulous about cleaning up after meals and disposing of trash properly.

Bear Safety Tips

  • If you encounter a bear during your trip, maintain a safe distance of at least 100 yards (the length of a football field). Use binoculars or a telephoto lens for close observation.
  • Do not approach, feed, or try to get closer to bears for any reason.
  • In the rare event of a bear approaching you, speak calmly and firmly, make yourself look larger by raising your arms, and back away slowly. Do not run.
  • If a bear is persistent, do not play dead; instead, fight back vigorously, aiming for the bear’s face and snout.

By following these guidelines, you’ll not only help protect the bears in their natural habitat but also contribute to a safer and more enjoyable experience for all visitors to Everglades National Park.

Bear safety is paramount to ensure the well-being of both humans and these magnificent creatures that call the park home.

black bear walking in a suburban neighborhood in FloridaPin

Everglades Mink

Meet the Mink

The Everglades Mink is an amazing animal with sleek brown fur. It’s an awesome swimmer and uses its sharp claws to catch food in the water.

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Everglades Mink

Mink Family Life

Everglades minks are usually solo adventurers, which means they like to explore the wetlands on their own. But when it’s time for family, they become great parents.

They make cozy dens in the ground, under roots, or even in tree hollows to raise their little mink kits, teaching them how to be stealthy swamp creatures.

two american minks in floridaPin
two cozy American minks in Florida

Mink Conservation and Status

The Everglades mink faces several challenges in terms of conservation. Their habitat in the Everglades is under threat due to factors like habitat destruction, water pollution, and changes in the ecosystem. As a result, these minks are considered a species of concern in the region.

Preserving the Everglades mink and its habitat is crucial for maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. These minks play a role in controlling populations of small mammals and maintaining the health of wetland habitats.

Protecting their habitat not only ensures the survival of the mink but also contributes to the overall biodiversity and ecological health of the Everglades.

Conservation efforts involve monitoring mink populations, protecting wetland areas, and raising awareness about the importance of preserving this unique species.

By understanding the challenges they face and taking steps to protect their environment, we can help ensure the Everglades mink continues to thrive in this remarkable ecosystem for generations to come

american mink coming out of some tall grassesPin

Birds in Everglades National Park

With over 360 different bird species to be spotted in the park, birdwatching here is like stepping into a real-life bird encyclopedia.

This captivating environment will not only spark your children’s curiosity but also provide a valuable learning experience.

Heron in the EvergladesPin
Heron looking for fish in the Everglades

Wading Birds

Wading birds are the true stars of the Everglades, and they’re sure to capture your children’s imaginations.

These birds are known for their long legs and unique hunting techniques. Here are a few wading birds that your kids will love to observe:

  • White Ibis: The white ibis, with its long, slender beak, spends its days probing the mud in search of crayfish, making it a fascinating bird for kids to watch.
  • Wood Stork: The wood stork’s lightning-fast fishing technique, involving shuffling its feet to startle fish, is sure to amaze young minds.
  • Greenbacked Heron: Children will be delighted by the antics of this small heron as it stalks its prey in shallow waters or hangs from low branches before making a lightning-fast jab at a passing fish.

Your family can also encounter the great white heron, great blue heron, great egrets, snowy egret, tri-colored heron, great blue herons, cattle egret, cape sable seaside sparrow, reddish egret, black-crowned night heron, yellow-crowned night heron, least bittern, glossy ibis, and the stunningly colorful roseate spoonbill.

brown pelican sitting near the water in the Florida EvergladesPin
Brown Pelican in the Florida Everglades

Exploring Bird-Watching Spots with Kids

Everglades National Park offers a range of exciting spots for birdwatching with kids. Check out this list of the best places to look for birds:

  • Ahinga Trail: A family-friendly path where you can spot wading birds, cormorants, Purple Gallinules, and nesting Anhingas. It’s perfect for young explorers.
  • Mahogany Hammock & Vicinity: Morning and evening visits here can yield sightings of Cape Sable Seaside Sparrows, Bald Eagles, warblers, and Barred Owls.
  • Paurotis Pond: Kids will be captivated by year-round appearances of Roseate Spoonbills and various wading birds, with Wood Storks dominating the mangroves in early spring.
  • Nine Mile Pond: Explore this pond in the morning via canoe for exciting encounters with Snail Kites, wading birds, Wood Storks, Roseate Spoonbills, Limpkins, and White-crowned Pigeons.
  • Shark Valley (Miami): Children will love discovering the birdlife of the Shark River Slough, with Wood Storks, Limpkins, Snail Kites, Anhingas, and more found along the tram road.
  • Gulf Coast (Everglades City): A gateway to the Ten Thousand Islands, where your family can observe wading birds, cormorants, Osprey, Bald Eagles, pelicans, shorebirds, Peregrine Falcons, Swallow-tailed Kites, Wood Storks, and various warblers.

Roseate Spoonbill

Sandy Key, just 10 miles southwest of Flamingo, is the go-to spot to witness Roseate Spoonbills during winter.

These elegant birds roost in the island’s largest trees and embark on breathtaking morning foraging flights.

Children will be enchanted by their unique feeding behavior, sweeping their bills through the water to capture fish.

The Roseate Spoonbill’s presence extends from the Florida Keys to Tampa, offering families an opportunity to observe this striking species.

Despite its historical challenges, Everglades National Park has played a crucial role in the conservation of the spoonbill population, making it a symbol of resilience and hope.

roseate spoonbillPin
Roseate Spoonbill


Everglades Fish: A Historical Connection

Did you know that fish have played a significant role in both the natural and cultural history of Everglades National Park?

They’ve been a staple for locals since the earliest occupation of the area. For recreational anglers, the Everglades has become a world-class destination to pursue impressive sport fish.

Even today, commercial harvesting operations continue to thrive outside the park, thanks to the productive estuaries in the region.

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Dive into Aquaculture Diversity

Everglades National Park is home to nearly 300 different Florida fish species, making it a prime spot for family fishing adventures. It’s not only a fun activity but also a great way to connect with the park’s natural heritage.

Remember that fishing licenses are required, and park regulations are enforced, so be sure to plan accordingly.

man fishing in Florida near EvergladesPin

Insects, Spiders, Centipedes, Millipedes

While the Everglades is renowned for its buzzing mosquitoes and biting flies, there’s a whole world of small creatures waiting to be discovered by your curious bug-loving kids.

The Buzz About Insects

Here are some fascinating facts about insects:

  • Insects represent about 90 percent of all life forms on Earth, with more than one million identified species worldwide.
  • They come in 32 different groups called orders, and beetles make up the largest group.
  • Everglades National Park hosts a diverse range of insect species, including bees, ants, and butterflies, although no comprehensive park-wide inventory has been conducted yet.


Everglades National Park is also home to fascinating arachnids like spiders, scorpions, whip scorpions, and pseudoscorpions.

Unlike insects, arachnids have eight legs and no antennae. While some, like the black widow spider and bark scorpion, are venomous, most pose no threat to humans. Be sure to watch out for ticks, though!

Many arachnids play a beneficial role in the ecosystem by keeping insect populations in check.

whip scorpionPin
Whip Scorpion

Centipedes and Millipedes

Centipedes, despite their name, don’t necessarily have 100 legs. They can have anywhere from fewer than 20 legs to over 300, always an odd number of pairs. These nocturnal creatures possess venomous claws but are not commonly seen due to their preference for moist microhabitats.

Millipedes, on the other hand, are more visible in the park, and they’re harmless. They have two pairs of legs per segment and curl into a tight coil as a defense mechanism.

How to see the Everglades National Park Animals

  1. Airboat Tours: One of the most iconic ways to explore the Everglades is by taking an airboat tour. These high-speed boats, powered by massive propellers, allow you to glide across the water and navigate through the park’s maze of mangroves and sawgrass prairies.
  2. Tram Tours: For a more leisurely wildlife-viewing experience, consider joining a tram tour. These guided tours take you deep into the heart of the Everglades, where you can observe the park’s diverse flora and fauna from the comfort of a tram.
  3. Anhinga Trail: If you prefer a self-guided adventure, the Anhinga Trail is a must-visit spot. This short boardwalk trail meanders through a fresh water marsh and offers fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities. It’s an excellent choice for families with young children, as the trail is both accessible and rich in native wildlife.
  4. Shark Valley: Located in the northern part of the park, Shark Valley offers a 15-mile loop trail that you can explore on foot, by bike, or on a narrated tram tour. The open landscape here makes it easy to spot alligators, deer, and a wide variety of birdlife. The tram tour is particularly family-friendly, as you can sit back and enjoy the sights while a guide shares their knowledge.
  5. Evening Wildlife Programs: Everglades National Park often hosts evening programs focused on wildlife. These ranger-led activities include talks, walks, and presentations about the park’s animals and their nocturnal behaviors. It’s a great way to learn about the Everglades National Park wildlife that comes to life after the sun sets.
  6. Ranger-Led Programs: Be sure to check the National Park Service schedule for ranger-led programs and guided walks. Rangers can provide valuable insights into the park’s wildlife and help you make the most of your visit.

Everglades National Park in North America is a haven of biodiversity and natural wonders, offering an enchanting world of wildlife that families can explore and cherish.

sunset airboat ride in everglades national park floridaPin

From the awe-inspiring American alligators and elusive Florida panthers to the graceful sea turtles and majestic wading birds, the park presents an opportunity for moms and kids to connect with nature in a truly remarkable way.

As you plan your family adventure to Everglades National Park, remember to prioritize the safety and well-being of both the animals and yourselves. Be sure to follow the guidelines for bear encounters, practice responsible wildlife viewing, and respect the fragile ecosystem of this unique wilderness.

alligators in a swamp in everglades national park, floridaPin

By immersing your family in the wonders of the Everglades, you not only create lasting memories but also foster a deep appreciation for the natural world.

This captivating destination promises an unforgettable experience where you can witness the intricate tapestry of life that thrives in this remarkable ecosystem.

Looking for more information about Everglades NP, or wildlife encounters in more amazing US national parks? Be sure to check out these articles, too:

Pin this Everglades NP wildlife information for later! And if you found this article helpful, leave a comment on the pin. That helps others decide whether to use this information, too!

A Guide to wildlife of Everglades National Park! #everglades #evergladesnationalpark #evergladesanimals #evergladeswildlife #familytravel #nationalparktravel #nationalparksPin
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About Heather Thibodeau

Heather Thibodeau is the founder and mom behind nationalparksmom.com.

She and her husband Dave (AKA Tib) are on a mission to travel to as many US national parks with their three kids in tow as they possibly can, doing their best to keep the little ones out in nature and off of screens in an increasingly digital world.

Heather has earned degrees in biology & chemistry from Virginia Tech (Go Hokies), and holds master's and doctorate degrees in physical therapy from Duke University (Go Blue Devils).

Heather is also the creative force behind The Heathered Nest where she shares her love of all things DIY and home decor.

Her work has been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, House Beautiful, Good Housekeeping, This Old House, Today.com, The Washington Post, Boston Globe, and more.

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