South Florida

Endangered species

An endangered species is defined as a plant or animal, that, throughout all or a significant portion of its range, is in danger of extinction. Many species that call the Everglades home are also in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's endangered species list.

American crocodile, Crocodylus acutus
This reptilian relative of the alligator has lost much of its natural habitats due to extensive development along coastal areas and the Keys. The crocodile has traditionally inhabited a range extending from Biscayne Bay northward.

Other endangered reptiles:
• Green turtle, Chelonia mydas
• Atlantic Ridley turtle, Lepidochelys kempi
• Atlantic hawksbill turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata
• Atlantic leatherback turtle, Dermochelys coriacea

Wood stork, Mycteria americana
With its unique feeding habits and specific environmental requirements, coupled with modern water control programs and excessive dry spells has created tough times for this wading bird. The wood stork population, along with other similar species, has declined by at least 90 percent since the 1930s.

Other endangered birds:
• Cape Sable seaside sparrow, Ammodramus maritima mirabilis
• Everglades snail kite, Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus
• Red-cockaded woodpecker, Picoides borealis

West Indian manatee, Trichechus manatus
The survival of the “sea cow” has been threatened due to boat propellers, habitat destruction, poaching and vandal attacks. Despite being protected by the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, neither law protects these slow-moving, gentle animals from propellers.

Florida panther, Felis concolor coryi
The entire southeastern range of the Florida Panther has been nearly eliminated due to rapid urban development. The once sprawling panther population has dwindled to a meager 50 in 1990 due to genetic inbreeding, mercury poisoning, shootings and collisions with fast-moving vehicles.

Other endangered mammals:
• Key Largo wood rat, Neotoma floridana smalli
• Key Largo cotton mouse, Peromyscus gossypinus allapaticola

Garber’s spurge, Chamaesyce garberi
As with most endangered species, the Garber’s spurge population has been drastically affected by human development of their natural habitats. It apparently has been uprooted from eight Florida Keys and has not been located in the Miami area since 1949. The remaining habitats that foster Garber’s spurge are in danger of destruction from hurricanes, storms, fire and other plants.

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