RFI: Florida in Late November

Hi folks,

I am currently in the process of planning a birding trip near the end of November, to coincide with the marine mammal meeting being held in Tampa. During the meeting I plan on hitting up the Tampa power plant for Manatee, which should be an easy lifer, but have had mixed results getting much other mammal info for Florida (although Mark Hows report was useful).

I will have about a week before the meeting where I will be birding with a little bit of herping Miami, Everglades, and possibly the Keys. Besides the Manatee, any info on the following would be great:

Spotted Skunk
Marsh Rabbit
Mountain Lion (I know…long shot)
Any rodents or bats info

Thanks in advance for any assistance


  • Morgan Churchill

    Oh, and Otter and Round-tailed Muskrat (yeah…another longshot)

  • Vladimir Dinets

    Spotted skunk is very difficult to see, unless you can gain access to Cape Canaveral, where they frequent the inner sides of beaches at night. Marsh rabbits can be sometimes seen at dusk along Flamingo Rd., but Lake Woodruff NWR is a much better place. For r-t muskrat, try walking along the eastern side of Shark Valley Loop Trail at dusk or at dawn (watch out for Everglades mink as well). The only panther I’ve seen was near the missile silos area in Hole-in-the-Doughnut near Royal Palm (ask at any Everglades visitor center). An excellent place to see rodents (i. e. Florida mouse) and other stuff is Archbold Biological Station. They even have introduced jaguarundi; look for Mexican freetails inside the basketball stand in the HQ guest parking lot, and ask if any southern flying squirrels nest in sheds. Endemic Florida mastiff bat can be seen at dusk over any golf course in Coral Gables (it looks like a large swift). Golf courses in Naples have very rare mangrove ssp. of fox squirrel. Rowdy Bend Trail in Big Cypress is the best place to look for bears. Highland Hammock SP is the best place for many forest species (i. e. bobcat and Fl woodrat) due to unusual habitat diversity.
    Seeing endemic rodent and raccoon ssp. of the Keys is tricky: try trails in Key Deer Refuge and the large nature reserve (forgot the name) less than a mile east from the entry point to Key Largo.

    • Vladimir Dinets

      oh, and Clearwater Strand for otters (it is on Big Cypress Loop Rd.). driving that road at night you should see plenty of opossums, and panthers have been seen near village garbage dumps there.

    • Vladimir Dinets

      Sorry, it’s Big Cypress Bend Trail, not Rowdy Bend. It is on Hwy 41 west of Hwy 29 intersection, technically in Fakahatchee Strand Preserve.

    • Vladimir Dinets

      And that place on Key Largo is called Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park. it’s technically closed at night, so watch for security camera at the entrance if you walk in after dark, or find your way to the backside entrance (you’d need a good map for that).

    • Morgan Churchill

      Thanks again for the info…actually the only reason I even included the panther request was because I had the vague recollection you had seen them. I am probably going to be limited to Everglades area and adjacent areas for this trip, and I don’t think I will be able to get much into Central Florida or the keys.

      The muskrat info is especially interesting. I think a previous discussion had commented on how tough this critter is (well, compared to common muskrat)

      • Vladimir Dinets

        Well, the muskrat is never guaranteed. It is generally much easier north from Orlando – there is even one reliable spot in Georgia. If you don’t see it on Shark Valley Trail, driving to/from Flamingo at night might work, although there you also see rice rats on shoulders sometimes, and they are not very easy to tell apart under such conditions. Marsh rabbits are also possible there.
        Mahogany Hammock Trail off Flamingo Rd. is reliable for cotton mice at night (and in February there is usually a pair of barred owls feeding chicks). Cotton rats can sometimes be seen at the end of Anhinga Trail.
        Look for Seminole bats in mahogany trees in the center of Anhinga Trail parking lot.
        If you choose to walk the entire Shark Valley Trail, try to time it so that you get to the far end (the watchtower) at dawn. The last mile of the western side of the loop is pretty reliable for Am. bitterns if you are the first person to get there.

  • John Fox

    Hi Morgan

    I found Marsh Rabbits at the Bailey tract of Ding Darling NWR, in the early morning. They were out on the path just past the bulletin board.

    A lady in N Ft. Meyers had a colony of Florida Bonneted Bats using bat houses she put up, but she said a freeze a couple winters ago had driven them off. The Babcock/Webb WMA also has bat houses and had a colony but I didn’t check with them about their status. Babcock/Webb also has Red-cockaded Woodpeckers if you need them.

    I visited Archbold Biological Station thinking Fla mouse but it was full of people and I didn’t make any arrangement to be there at night. Lot’s of Scrub Jays there. Worth going back with some prior plan.

    Some agency is doing a Woodrat recovery action with artificial nest boxes at the north end of Key Largo. A google search might turn up more information.


    • Morgan Churchill

      Given the other replies and this…at least I should be able to add Marsh Rabbit to the list…

      • John Fox

        Yeah, but you can’t just settle for that. Florida Mouse and R-t Muskrat are endemic, monotypic genera. In a way they are “better” than Snow Leopards.

        The IUCN Red List page on R-t Muskrat is typically frustrating:


        Sugar cane fields in the western part of Palm Beach County was what I was planning on trying, as weird as that sounds. But Vladimir has come through in the past, and taking the Tamiami Trail to get to Tampa is easy enough, and to get to the Shark Valley Loop Trail.

        Good luck, and let us know,


  • Mike Richardson

    Hi Morgan

    I remember a guy on fieldherp forum used to post pictures of Spotted Skunks that he used to find around one of his board sites in a Miami park. It might have been before the forum crashed last year but it may be worth a RFI on there. I think the skunks were pretty reliable at this site.

    I’ve seen plenty of Marsh Rabbits around Flamingo in the Everglades which is also the place to go for American Crocodiles.


    • Morgan Churchill

      yeah…Curtis Hart has actually gone to the secret skunk spot, but herpers tend to be leary about sharing site info. I might give it a go but I am fairly unknown on herpforum, so I figured I would ask here first

      • John Fox

        That was the secret Skunk spot? The first time I ever talked to Curtis he said he had “flipped” a Spotted Skunk. I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. Did you get anything on you?, I thought. LMAO.

  • Mark Hows

    Hi Morgan,

    The bat house at the University of Florida in Gainesville has over 100,000 Brazilian Free-tail bats, might be worth a look.

    I see other replies for Marsh Rabbits, But they were very easy at Wakodahatchee reserve and we visited when it was quite busy and they were not bothered and it is a great place to visit anyway.

    Green Vervet Monkeys at the Motel 6 at Dania Beach, but are much easier at the nearby airport if you are into that sort of thing

    If you need any more info then feel free to contact me.


  • Marcus

    In Big Cypress Swamp:
    Marsh rabbits are common in the morning and evening along Tamiami Trail.
    Otters can be seen (but definitely not guaranteed) at Sweetwater Strand and nearby portions of the Loop Road.
    Florida Panther can be seen along any road, but I only ever saw one over my 2 years there, there was an individual seen with some regularity along the eastern end of Loop Road and may still be, they prefer upland areas and are more common in the northern part of the park, but access is minimal up there, Vladimir’s advice for them in Everglades is good as well.
    Both cotton rats and rice rats are common, but you would probably need to trap, though cotton rat can be seen by day along edges of wet prairie habitat.
    Round-tailed muskrat are hard to find in the park, so Vladimir advice for Shark Valley is probably best, they like permanent marsh habitats.
    I have heard that spotted skunks are relatively common in the agricultural fields southeast of Lake Okeechobee, but I have never looked there.
    Brazilian free-tailed bat, evening bat, northern yellow bat and Seminole bat are all frequent
    yellow bats roost in palm trees with dead leaves hanging down often in urban areas
    Brazilian free-tails are also common in urban areas
    Velvety free-tailed bat are only in the keys, and are the only bat you are likely to see there, though Jamaican fruit bats have been seen as well.
    Florida Mastiff bats have been most commonly found at Granada Golf Course in Coral Gables

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