02 May 2012
Posted in NatureWorks
Have you ever gazed up at the sky to see a colorful flock of Bachman’s warblers migrating south for the winter? Have you ever swum in the sea only to see a Caribbean monk seal playing freely? What about seeing an eastern Cougar stalking through the woods or a Goff’s pocket gopher digging a tunnel on the coast?
I bet you haven’t as these animals are extinct, gone forever and as of January 2011. There are however, more than 1,170 species on the brink of joining them.
Below are a few of Florida’s most wanted animals. They’re wanted not for being bad natured but because they’re so endangered and we would like them to stay around for future generations to enjoy.
The Florida Panther (Puma concolor coryi)
Perhaps one of Florida’s most famous animals, serving as the state’s mascot, the Florida panther is also one of its most endangered. Their numbers have been dwindling toward extinction since the 1960s due to loss of habitat, collisions with vehicles, and genetic defects. Many people fear these big cats, which can grow 6-7ft. long, but they should know there are no recorded incidents of a panther attacking a person. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, before the Europeans arrived there were once more than 1,360 panthers in the wild but now there are only an estimated 100 left in south Florida.
Ivory Billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis)
A bird so endangered, scientists are unsure whether or not it’s already extinct, the Ivory billed woodpecker has been reportedly spotted in the woods of North Florida, the cypress swamps of southwest Florida and swamp areas of central Florida. Is the bird extinct or elusive? Only time needed to repopulate and scientific searches will tell.
West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus)
These gentle giants grace the freshwater springs and costal waterways of Florida. Even though you would think living below the surface would protect them, they still face danger in the form of boating accidents, cold weather and pollution. Manatees are vital to our Florida ecosystems as they help prevent aquatic plant overgrowth and bring thousands of tourists to our state a year. Estimates place only a couple thousand West Indian manatees left in the wild, with the largest population residing here in Florida. These creatures have been around for millions of years and with caution, we can keep it that way.
These are just a few of the many Florida animals on the verge of disappearing forever. Luckily, there is still hope for the future thanks to rehabilitation and breeding programs. You too can help these animals by becoming more aware of threats to their lives and by supporting programs that ensure their survival. A few such programs include “adopting” your favorite animal for as little as $25, purchasing license plates where a portion of the proceeds go toward habitat protection and adding your name to online petitions. Together we can ensure these beautiful creatures survive and thrive for future generations to enjoy.