South Florida Ecological Services Field Office
Southeast Region


COVID-19 Update

Due to concerns about the corona virus, all of the employees of the South Florida Ecological Services Office are currently working from home in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. However, our office is still conducting business. Here's how to contact us:

  • Since hard copy mail may not be delivered/seen in a timely manner, patrons are advised to send correspondence directly to the staff member via email.
  • If you don't know exactly who to direct your email to, please send it to
  • In addition, all of our employees should be reachable by telephone by calling their office phone number, which will transfer the caller to a forwarding phone number. You can find our staff directory, which has phone numbers and email addresses for each employee at

Our Mission

Conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife, and their habitats, in cooperation with partners, for the continuing benefit of the American people, from the Lake Wales Ridge to the Florida Keys.

The Ecological Services Division of the USFWS works to protect and restore healthy populations of fish and wildlife and the environments on which they depend. To accomplish this, the South Florida Ecological Services Field Office has these programs: Everglades Restoration, Coastal Ecology, Contaminants, Endangered Species, Habitat Conservation, and Partners for Fish and Wildlife.

News and Features

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Critical Habitat for
the Endangered Florida Bristle Fern

Members of the public invited to participate in 60-day public comment period
Photo of Key deer

Florida bristle fern photo by Keith Bradley

February 21, 2020

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed to designate critical habitat for the rare Florida bristle fern under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service listed the Florida bristle fern, a plant found only in Miami-Dade and Sumter counties in Florida, as endangered in 2015. The Service also announced availability of a draft economic analysis on the proposed critical habitat designation. The public is invited to submit comments on the, critical habitat designation and draft economic analysis during a 60-day comment period ending April 24, 2020.

The Florida bristle fern is a small, mat-forming plant. In Miami-Dade County, South Florida, the fern is found in four known populations in rockland hammocks, all on county-managed conservation lands (Castellow, Hattie Bauer, Fuchs and Meissner hammocks). In Sumter County, Central Florida, only two populations occur, both in small hammocks on state-owned land in the Jumper Creek Tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest. Habitat modification and destruction caused by urban development, agricultural conversion, regional drainage and canal installation are the main threats to the Florida bristle fern. Click Here to Read More

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Conducting Public Session to Share Information on Key Deer Recovery and Possible Change In Listing Status; Meeting Set for Marathon Key on August 22

Photo of Key deer

Key deer.

August 8, 2019

VERO BEACH, Fla. – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is hosting a public information meeting on Aug. 22, 2019 at the Marathon Key Government Center, in the Emergency Operations Center Room (2798 Overseas Highway, Marathon, Fla.) starting at 6 p.m. The purpose of the meeting is to share information about Key deer recovery and a possible change in the listing status of this iconic species.

During this meeting, the Service will provide information about how Key deer recovery is progressing, how the recent species status assessment (SSA) is informing/guiding decisions regarding Key deer and how the public can participate in the decision making process when/if the Service proposes to change the listing status of Key deer under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Should the Service propose a change in the listing status in the future, an additional public hearing will be scheduled at which the public will be allowed to make oral comments or submit written comments. Click Here to Read More
Meeting Handout
Listing a Species as Threatened or Endangered Fact Sheet
Delisting a Species Fact Sheet

Opportunity to provide information for 5-Year Reviews for 13 Species in South Florida
Photo of Everglades snail kite landing in tree

Everglade snail kite.
Photo credit: Vince Lamb

April 24, 2019

VERO BEACH, Florida -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is conducting five-year status reviews of 36 threatened or endangered southeastern species—13 of which are in South Florida, including Everglade snail kite, Audubon's crested caracara, Cape-sable seaside sparrow, Key Largo cotton mouse, bluetail mole skink, sand skink, and numerous plants.

The public is invited to provide information and comments concerning these species on or before June 10, 2019. Click Here to Read More

Eastern Collier Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement Available for Public Review and Comment
Photo of Florida panther

Florida panther.
Photo credit: FWC

October 19, 2018

VERO BEACH, Fla. – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking comments on a draft environmental impact statement and a habitat conservation plan associated with the incidental take permit applications of 11 Collier County landowners under the Endangered Species Act.

The Eastern Collier Property Owners, LLC, requests a 50-year incidental take permit for the Florida panther and 18 other federal or state-listed species for take incidental to residential and commercial development, earth mining, and low-intensity rural-land activities in Collier County, Florida.
Click Here to Read More

Endangered Butterflies Reintroduced At State Parks In Florida Keys
Photo of Schaus' swallowtail butterfly

Adult Schaus' swallowtail butterfly

July 25, 2018

KEY LARGO, Fla. -- Kristin Rossetti couldn’t believe her eyes: “I just put him on the leaf and he’s already eating! These little critters are hungry!”

“Yeah, they’re essentially eating machines,” chimed in Jaret Daniels.

Those “little critters” and “eating machines” were Schaus’ swallowtail caterpillars being placed on wild lime trees at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park as part of a reintroduction project on Key Largo, Fla.Click Here to Read More

Service and Partners Working to Stave off Extinction of Florida Grasshopper Sparrows
Photo of Key deer

Florida grasshopper sparrow
Photo credit: White Oak Conservation

Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida Establishes a “Sparrow Fund”

December 18, 2017

VERO BEACH, Florida – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and its partners are working to stave off the extinction of a small, ground-nesting song bird that has lived on the prairies of South and Central Florida for thousands of years. If current trends continue, Florida grasshopper sparrows could disappear from the landscape in two to three years.

In 2017, these sparrows reached a record low of about 75 wild birds. Trends suggest there will be less than 40 wild birds in 2018. Only about 50 birds are being sustained in two captive populations. Restoring a self-sustaining wild population seems unlikely, but groundbreaking scientific strides are underway in an effort to beat the odds.
Click Here to Read More

Florida Grasshopper Sparrows On Brink of Extinction;
Photo of Florida grasshopper sparrow

Florida grasshopper sparrow
Photo credit: Ken Schneider

Fund-raiser Held to Benefit Research and Captive Rearing Efforts; The Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida Has Also Established “Sparrow Fund”

December 12, 2017

Florida International University hosted a fund-raising event in Coconut Grove, Florida December 7 that featured an exhibit of "The Lost Bird Project" to help create awareness about the desperate plight of Florida grasshopper sparrows.

Noted Florida environmentalist Nathaniel Reed, who was Assistant Secretary of the Interior in the Nixon and Ford administrations (1971-77), made remarks at the event.
Click Here to Read More

USFWS Approves Coral Reef Commons Habitat Conservation Plan; Issues Incidental Take Permit

December 5, 2017

VERO BEACH, Florida – After a thorough review, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has approved the Coral Reef Commons (CRC) Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and issued an Incidental Take Permit to the applicants, Coral Reef Retail LLC, Coral Reef Resi PhI LLC, Ramdev LLC and the University of Miami, for their development in Miami-Dade County.

With the permit in hand, the applicants have satisfied requirements under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and can move forward subject to any applicable state and local building requirements.
Click Here to Read More

Key Deer Population Makes it Through Another Major Incident
Photo of Key deer

Key deer

October 19, 2017

NATIONAL KEY DEER REFUGE, Fla. -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) completed post Irma Key deer index surveys in their core habitats on Big Pine and No Name keys.

Driving survey work following procedures used since 1968 began immediately upon the return of refuge staff from mandatory evacuation and continued for several weeks.
Click Here to Read More

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list four South Florida plants as threatened or endangered
Photo of Everglades bully

Everglades bully
Photo credit: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

October 5, 2017

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Because of the risk of extinction, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is listing four plants found only in Florida’s Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The shrub Everglades bully, Florida pineland crabgrass, and an herb, pineland sandmat, are being listed as threatened. In addition, the Florida prairie-clover, another shrub, is being listed as endangered.
Click Here to Read More

Service Seeking New Information on Florida Panthers

June 30, 2017

Photo of Florida panther

Florida panther.
Photo credit: FWC

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- The public has an opportunity to provide new information on Florida panther recovery and conservation during the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) current five-year review of the status of Florida panthers.

“We want new information from all sources to assist us and our partners in better targeting and prioritizing our conservation efforts for this species,” said Larry Williams, the Service’s state supervisor for Ecological Services.
Click Here to Read More

Florida’s Hunters, Anglers, Boaters are Underwriting and Supporting Wildlife Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Projects; Generated $26 Million for 2017

June 7, 2017

VERO BEACH, Fla. – Florida hunters have harvested game such as white-tailed deer, ducks, wild hogs and turkeys at state-managed wildlife management areas (WMAs) for decades, while their purchases of hunting equipment also generate funds that pay for the conservation and management of these important areas.

This self-supporting funding process is a key element of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFRP), which consists of the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife and Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Funds. This annual influx of millions of dollars--derived from excise taxes paid by manufacturers of firearms, bows and ammunition and sport fishing tackle, some boat engines and small engine fuel--directly benefits Florida’s outdoor enthusiasts.
Click Here to Read More

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offers online assistance for Florida marine event coordinators

May 24, 2017

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Florida's boating support and waterway planners, as well as marine event coordinators, can now receive 24-hour online assistance to help plan projects that contribute to the conservation of manatees and other marine wildlife through the Information for Planning and Consultation (IPaC) website. IPaC is an online tool which provides information on protected species and habitat that may occur in a specific area.
Click Here to Read More

Webinar/Conference Call on Draft Coral Reef Commons Habitat Conservation Plan Set for April 27, 2017

April 17, 2017

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is hosting a conference call and associated webinar to provide information and another avenue for public comments on the Coral Reef Commons draft Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), Environmental Assessment (EA) and Incidental Take Permit (ITP) application. The agenda for the webinar will include presentations about the HCP/ITP/EA process and an overview of the Coral Reef Commons HCP. At the end of the presentations, particpants will be allowed two minutes each for comments that will be recorded and transcribed. The Service will consider all comments received during the webinar as part of the public comment period.
Click Here to Read More

Click Here to Download Webinar Presentation Slides

Coral Reef Commons Draft Habitat Conservation Plan Available for Public Review and Comment

March 23, 2017

VERO BEACH, Fla. – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comments on a developer’s plan to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts to eight threatened, endangered, and at-risk species in Miami-Dade County. The plan is part of a process to clear the way for construction to begin on a 137-acre residential and commercial project in south Miami.

Public comments will be considered on the draft Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and associated Environmental Assessment (EA) for the proposed Coral Reef Commons development over the next 60 days. A final decision to issue incidental take permit (ITP) to the applicants will follow. Click Here to Read More

Subject Taken Into Custody in “Youtube” Florida Panther Kitten Case

March 17, 2017

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- On Wednesday, March 16, U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) Service special agents and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officers served two state search warrants in Miami.

The warrants were served at residences of Javier Torres at 14205 SW 154th Street and Alfredo Lopez De Queralta at 1929 NW 25th Avenue. These individuals are suspected of numerous wildlife violations, including the take (the legal definition of “take” in both federal and state statutes includes activities which interferes with breeding, feeding or sheltering) of Florida panthers, a federally listed endangered species. Click Here to Read More

Endangered Florida Panther Finds New Home at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo

February 13, 2017

Photo of Florida panther

Florida panther.
Photo credit: TLPZ

VERO BEACH, Fla. (February 13, 2017) -- Federal and state wildlife officials found permanent safe haven for a two-year-old Florida panther at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. The endangered panther is no longer considered viable for release to the wild due to its behavior: He was captured and removed twice from nearby residential areas because he was preying upon pets--putting himself, the public and their pets at risk.

Officials with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) first captured the panther on April 12, 2016, following several unexpected direct encounters between the panther and residents at the Farm Workers Village neighborhood, near Immokalee in Collier County where pets and feral cats in the neighborhood had frequently been preyed upon by the panther. Click Here to Read More



Eastern Collier Property Owners
Habitat Conservation Plan
and Draft Environmental
Impact Statement

Link to Eastern Collier HCP page

Release of Captive-reared
Florida grasshopper sparrow to
the Florida Dry Prairie

Link to Florida grasshopper sparrow signing
Florida grashopper sparrow
Photo credit: Christina Evans

Environmental Assessment
Finding of No Significant Impact
Disease Risk Assessment
ESA Section 7 Consultation
5-Year Strategic Vision

Female Florida Panther
"Screams" For Mate

The next time you’re in the Florida wilds and hear what sounds like a loud, wailing human scream, it just might be a female Florida panther calling for a mate while she’s in estrus--a recurring period of sexual receptivity and fertility in many female mammals…commonly known as being in “heat.”

Florida panthers are generally solitary animals. They usually live, hunt and travel alone. The only exception to this solitary nature is when female panthers are raising kittens or when a male and female panther pair up for mating. Estrus lasts about seven days, during which the female will advertise her readiness and location to potential mates through caterwauling, a vocalization popularly described as a “scream.” In addition to vocalizing her breeding condition, the female Florida panther will leave scrapes on the ground that provide visual and scent markings for the male to follow. After they’ve mated, the pair will rarely stay together for more than a few days.

In this video, immediately after they’ve mated, the male scratches a log, a behavior that not only helps maintain their claws but is also used as a means to communicate their presence to other panthers, just like the scrape or urine marker mentioned above. In this case, this resident male is likely claw-marking to advertise his territory and his superior social status to other males--kind of like a panther Facebook or Instagram.

The age of sexual maturity for the female panther is usually around two years and she’ll have her first litter at around 2 1/2 years old. The male panther is also capable of mating at the age of two but, because of competition from older males, does not usually have the opportunity until he’s three or four.

To humans, the sound of a female Florida panther in estrus calling for a mate can be the furthest thing from a soothing sound, but to a male Florida panther, it’s probably the sweetest sound in the world.

The video was taken with a trail camera set up by expert panther houndsman and tracker, Mr. Roy McBride-Rancher’s Supply, Inc.

Coral Reef Commons

Link to Coral Reef Commons Project Documents Link to Final Incidental Take Permit, Biological Opinion, Habitat Conservation Plan and other related project documents

Florida panther 5-year Review
Public Comments

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US Air Force Avon Park Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan

Click on image to view the U. S. Air Force Avon Park Air Force Range Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan

Photo of report cover

Click on image to view the 2015 Conservation Outlook Report

Last updated: March 26, 2020