Reptiles

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Florida, and the Florida Keys, are incredibly species-rich when it comes to reptiles. There are over 40 different species of reptiles found in the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges.

  • Red Rat Snake

    redratsnake


    Pantherophis guttatus

    Also referred to as the corn snake from their habit of feeding on mice inside of farmer’s grain storehouses, the red rat snake is a common snake of hammocks, rocklands, and coastal forests. A natural pest control, rat snakes can eat hundreds of rats in a lifetime. Individuals found in the Florida Keys have less black in their brilliant red and orange patterning, as well as a less well defined checkerboard pattern on their underside. These striking snakes can grow to 48 inches in length, are excellent climbers, and feed on rodents, bird eggs, and small reptiles/amphibians.
    These snakes are non-venomous, and are beneficial to the ecosystem and for the removal of household pests.

  • Black Racer

    blackracer


    Coluber constrictor priapus
    An extremely widespread snake, the black racer can be found in rocklands, hammocks, and on dunes of the Florida Keys. Individuals are thin with black scales, gray underbellies, and a white chin. These characteristics distinguish them from indigo snakes, which have dark reddish chins and are much larger in size. They feed on rodents, lizards, and frogs, and will sometimes exhibit a behavior known as “periscoping”, where the snake lifts the front portion of its body into a postion perpendicular to the ground. True to their name, these snakes move with suprising speed when escaping.
    These snakes are non-venomous, and are beneficial to the ecosystem and for the removal of household pests.

  • Indigo Snake

    indigo snake

    Drymarchon couperi
    The longest snake species in the United States, individuals can grow up to 9 feet and weigh 11 pounds. Indigo snakes are distinctly jet black and shiny, with red coloration on their chins. They prefer areas with cover and frequent the pine forests of Florida. They will eat any prey that they can overpower, and have even been known to consume rattlesnakes, whose venom they are immune to.
    These snakes are non-venomous, and are beneficial to the ecosystem and for the removal of household pests.
    The indigo snake is a federally protected and listed "Threatened" species.

    (Report a sighting of the Indigo Snake)

  • Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

    diamondback

    Crotalus adamanteus
    A large, venomous pitviper that uses heat-sensing structures to detect prey. These snakes can normally be found in salt marsh, dune, and maritime hammock habitats where they feed on small mammals and ground-nesting birds. They display a mosaic of white, brown, and black scales, with the characteristic dark diamond pattern along their back. It possesses a modified set of scales on the tip of it’s tail, which it shakes at a very high speed to produce the signature “rattle”. Individuals are very uncommon in the Lower Keys; development and persecution have extirpated the snake from many habitats. Some small populations may continue to thrive on isolated islands within the refuge.
    This snake is venomous so be careful and use caution around them. Keep in mind though that it is a rare species here in the Keys and a vital part of the ecosystem.

    (Report a sighting of the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake)

  • Rim Rock Crowned Snake

    rimrock snake

    Tantilla oolitica 
    A small fossorial (living underground) snake that hides in the soil and litter of the tropical hammocks and pine rocklands of South Florida. Individuals are tan with white underbellies and black heads. They grow to a maximum size of 11 inches and are specialists that feed mostly on centipedes.
    These snakes are non-venomous, and are beneficial to the ecosystem.

    (Report a sighting of the Rim Rock Crowned Snake)

  • Key Ringneck Snake

    ringneck snake

    Diadophis punctatus acricus 
    A recognized subspecies of the peninsular ringneck snake, this small secretive snake is often found in hammocks and wetlands. The Keys subspecies is typically an ashy grey to black color with an orange underbelly, with the characteristic orange ring behind the head being discontinuous or altogether absent. When handled, they will often curl the rear half of their body into a coil, displaying the bright orange coloration while secreting a foul-smelling liquid. They are very small snakes, growing to a mere 11 inches in length and about the diameter of a pencil. They feed on small lizards, frogs, and insects. 
    These snakes are non-venomous, and are beneficial to the ecosystem.

    (Report a sighting of the Key Ringneck Snake)

  • Carolina/Green Anole

    greenanole


    Anolis carolinensis

    The only native anole species in North America, these small lizards are most commonly seen climbing trees or jumping through vegetation. Common in hammocks and gardens, they feed on small insects and spiders while defending their territory from other males. Individuals will communicate by extending their bright pink throat fan, or “dewlap” while bobbing their head to ward off rivals or attract mates. They have been mistakenly called the American Chameleon in the past, but despite their ability to change their color from dark brown to light green, are not members of the chameleon family. They can be distinguished from the many non-native anoles by their consistent coloration and longer pointed snouts.

  • Six-Lined Racerunner

    sixlinedracerunner


    Aspidoscelis sexlineata
    These ground dwelling lizards are common in sandy areas around maritime hammocks and on beach dunes. They are dark brown to black with many light bands running the length of their bodies; females have a white underbelly while males are a pale blue. Blue coloration in males can become more vivid during the breeding season. They feed on small insects and spiders while moving through the underbrush in a distinctive jerking manner. When startled, however, they can escape with impressive speed into the nearest dense vegetation.

  • Florida Keys Mole Skink

    mole skink 2

    Plestiodon egregius egregius
    This skink is one of five recognized subspecies of mole skinks in Florida. The Keys Mole Skink frequents areas with deep loose soils that it burrows through in search of beetle larvae and other small insects. Individuals are light brown in color, with light bands extending the length of their bodies and an orange to deeply red tail. Females dig small nest cavities underground and females of other subspecies have been observed brooding over the eggs.

    (Report a sighting of the Keys Mole Skink)

  • Reef Gecko

    reef gecko

    Sphaerodactylus notatus 
    A very small gecko found in leaf litter and under debris in the lower Keys. It is the only species of native Sphaerodactyline (round fingered) gecko found in the United States. They have round pupils and dark bodies with rusty to brown tails that are easily detached when escaping predators. These geckos are among the smallest reptiles in the world; individuals rarely exceed 2 inches in length. They feed on small invertebrates found in the leaf litter.

  • Florida Box Turtle

    boxturtle


    Terrapene carolina bauri
    This endearing reptile is a distinct box turtle subspecies found only in Florida and the very southern portion of Georgia. The carapace (the shell) of the turtle has dark brown to black background color with a pattern of yellow-orange stripes. Males can be easily distinguished by their brilliant red eyes, while females have yellow eyes. Their name comes from the ability to close their lower shell (the plastron) tight after the animal withdraws inwards, providing protection from predators. The Florida Box Turtle is highly omnivorous  and will eat slugs, earthworms, beetles, crickets, flies, spiders, berries, moss, mushrooms, fruits, vegetables, and even carrion. They can often be seen moving throughout the marshes, hammocks, and rocklands of the Lower Keys, especially after a period of rainfall.

  • Striped Mud Turtle

    mudturtle


    Kinosternon baurii
    The Striped Mud Turtle is a small aquatic turtle that lives in ponds and ditches in Florida. Females are larger than males, but only reach about a length of 12 cm maximum. They are infrequently seen at the surface, choosing instead to move through the muck searching for insects, snails, tadpoles, crayfish, and algae to feed on. Females will travel extreme distances relative to their size to lay eggs on dry land, returning to the same spot in later years. They can survive in fresh or brackish water, and even enter a hibernation-like state in dried wetlands where they bury themselves and wait for rain. The mosquito ditches in the Lower keys are thought to provide artificial habitat that supports a population of these turtles.

    (Report a sighting of the Striped Mud Turtle)

  • Green Treefrog

    greentreefrog


    Hyla cinerea
    The green tree frog (Hyla cinerea) is a common, medium-sized (1.25-2.5 in.) frog native to the Southeastern United States.  Green tree frogs’ body coloration can change depending on factors like temperature and the frog’s activity level, but they are generally some shade of solid green with pale, lateral streaks on each side and a white or pale yellow underbelly.  Green tree frogs prefer wetland areas with floating vegetation and, as their name suggests, spend much of their lives on trees or climbing on other wetland plants, using very sticky toe pads to cling to vegetation.  They are a nocturnal species and their calls can be heard at night (especially after rainfall) during their breeding season, which extends from March through October.

  • Southern Leopard Frog

    leopardfrog


    Lithobates sphenocephalus
    Southern leopard frogs are a frog species native to the Southeastern United States, including all of Florida, with the exception of the upper Florida Keys. They usually are 2-3.5 inches long as adults, but can grow to over 5 inches long.   The Southern leopard frog ranges from green to brown in color and has a pointed snout, pronounced ridges along its back, and large dark spots covering its body.  They live in all kinds of shallow freshwater environments, where they feed on insects and other small aquatic invertebrates.  Southern leopard frogs are also powerful leapers, capable of jumping several feet.

  • Eastern Narrow-mouthed Toad

    nwmtoad


    Gastrophryne carolinensis
    The Eastern narrow-mouthed toad is not a true toad, but rather belongs to the Microhylidae family of narrow-mouth frogs. While the Eastern narrow-mouthed toad is a terrestrial species, tending to live in leaf litter in forests, scrubland, and other damp environments, it has smooth, moist skin, unlike the “true toad” family Bufonidae.  It is quite small, generally not occuring more than an inch in length, and has a squat, oval-shaped body, tapering to a narrow head with a small fold of skin behind it.  Its coloration can change, but is usually a dark, mottled brown in color.  The Eastern narrow-mouthed toad’s diet includes ants and other small invertebrates.  Breeding occurs in wet environments such as the edges of ponds or marshes from April to October.

  • American Alligator

    alligator


    Alligator mississippiensis
    The American Alligator is one of two living species of alligator. Habitat loss and hunting drastically reduced the population of alligators throughout the southeast until they were designated as endangered in 1967. Recovery has been nothing short of dramatic, as alligators today are a very common sight in Florida, where an estimated 1.2 million of these animals live. They inhabit freshwater and brackish ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers of the state, feeding on a wide variety of prey both in the water and on the land. Males can grow to 11 feet on average and weigh around 500 pounds. Alligators are much more cold tolerant than crocodiles, allowing them to enter a state of extremely low activity without harm to the animal. Females build nests of vegetation in the spring, guarding the nests until the eggs hatch. Once the hatchlings emerge from their eggs inside the mound, females will dig them out and carry them to the water. Juvenile alligators are born with yellow bands that provide camouflage against predators, but fade as the animal grows.

    (How to report a problem with an alligator)

  • American Crocodile

    croc reptile

    Crocodylus acutus 
    The American Crocodile is one of the larger of the four crocodile species that inhabit the Western hemisphere. They reach average lengths of 15 feet and weigh about 900 pounds when fully grown, although larger males can occasionally reach 20 feet in length and weigh nearly a ton (2000 lbs). They feed on a range of prey as they grow, from minnows, insects, and small crustaceans to large fish, small mammals, and birds. They are only native to a small portion of south Florida and throughout the Keys, where they are designated as threatened. They prefer the brackish bays and mangrove swamps along the coasts. These crocodiles prefer a more saline environment, and possess special glands in their mouth for removing excess salt. 

    (Report a sighting of the American Crocodile)