National Endangered Species Day: What animals are at risk in Florida?


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The third Friday of every May is Endangered Species Day and despite the coronavirus pandemic, this year is no different.

This day of the year is a great opportunity for Floridians to learn about the endangered species in the state.

8 On Your Side has listed many of the endangered species that inhabit the state of Florida, which the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), created only in 1998, and various other conservationists and organizations are working to protect.

Species in peril in Florida are listed as federally endangered or threatened which includes charges on the state level as well.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, endangered species have become so rare they are in danger of becoming extinct. A threatened species is likely to become endangered in the future.

“In November 2010, FWC established an imperiled species management system and revised its imperiled species rules,” a link on the FWC’s website reads.

Florida Panther

According to FWC, the Florida Panther is one of two native cat species to the state, the other being the bobcat. Panthers are most often found south of Lake Okeechobee.

FWC said only female panthers have been documented in South Florida, where all panther breeding reportedly occurs.

The commission said there are only 120 to 230 adult panthers in the state and are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

On Friday morning, an email from FWC to 8 On Your Side says the remains of a 3 1/2 year old panther were discovered on May 18. According to FWC, the suspected cause of death is a collision with a vehicle.

Kemp’s ridley, Hawksbill, Leatherback sea turtles

Three of five known species of sea turtle to nest on Florida’s beaches are considered endangered on the federal level.

FWC confirms the Kemp’s ridley turtle is the smallest sea turtle, weighing in at only 85 to 100 pounds.

“Its only major nesting beach is an area called Rancho Nuevo on Mexico’s Gulf coast,” the FWC said. “The location of this nesting beach was a mystery to scientists until the discovery of a film made in 1947 by a Mexican engineer showing thousands of Kemp’s ridleys crawling ashore to lay eggs there.”

In 2020, no Hawksbill or Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nests were documented by the FWC in the Tampa Bay area, however, aquariums across the local area will provide care for these animals.

As for the federally endangered leatherback sea turtle, four unviable nests were discovered in Sarasota County in 2020.

The most common sea turtle to nest in the Tampa Bay area is the loggerhead sea turtle, which remains on the list of federally threatened species of sea turtle.

Key Deer

The current Key deer population is estimated by FWC to be around 700 to 800 deer, only found in the Florida Keys, most commonly on Big Pine Key and No Name Key.

FWC said Key deer are able to live in any kind of habitat, from mangroves to pine rocklands and more.

Many more species are considered threatened in the state of Florida, including the ever-popular, fan-favorite West Indian manatee, which has since been moved from the federal Endangered Species List to listed as “threatened” in 2017. In 2021, the species of manatee has undergone what is known as an “Unusual Mortality Event” or UME.

Other threatened species in the state include gopher tortoises, common in the Tampa Bay area, especially on the island of Egmont Key.

“Gopher tortoises share their burrows with more than 350 other species, and are therefore referred to as a keystone species,” according to FWC.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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