Central Florida RFI

HI all,

It appears that I will be visiting the Orlando area of Florida for two weeks in October. As I have the use of a friend’s villa it will be a more relaxed affair than my usual trips and I won’t be making many overnight trips from Kissimmee.

I’ve visited Florida several times before and have already seen most of the ’Florida Specials’ on offer. However, I’ve still got plenty of bats and rodents left to see and would greatly appreciate any information or advice.

As the villa backs onto a large area of pineland/scrub and I’m hoping to throw out a few small mammal traps. Does anyone know if a permit is required in Florida? (Not had much luck researching my question online).  

Also, does anyone know any good sites for Florida Black Bear? I understand the Ocala Nat. Forest is good. Any particular areas?

I would also appreciate information on local sites for Eastern Fox Squirrel, Southern Flying Squirrel, Rice Rat, Oldfield Mouse and Round-tailed Muskrat (yes, I know the last one is a tough one). Also, any local bat roosts to check out?

I plan to drive to Naples for a couple of nights and spend some time driving around Big Cypress. I understand that Jane’s scenic drive in Fakahatchee is a good place to chance upon a Florida Panther or Black Bear. Any other roads I could try at night (when the scenic drive is closed)?

Finally, from a previous RFI on here I believe Archbold Biological Station is good for Florida Mouse. Has anyone had any luck getting permission to access the reserve after hours? I doubt they would allow me to set some traps but I guess I could always ask.

Any other hints/tips greatly appreciated.

Many thanks

Mike Richardson


  • vdinets

    For black bear, try Big Cypress Bend Trail off Tamiami Trail west of Hwy 29 junction. The trail is very popular, so you have to be there at first light to have more than 1% chance. For all other mammals, try Loop Road late at night. Otters are possible there in the morning.
    You don’t need traps to see Florida Mouse at Archbold: just find the best trackway and watch it for a few hours before dawn. An alternative location with nighttime access is Big Scrub area in Ocala NF (some hiking required). If you find a place where you can trap, try gopher tortoise burrow entrances. Looking into those burrows at night can also get you a mouse. Oldfield mouse is usually present in the same areas.
    Highland Hammock State Park has the best habitat diversity, and excellent trails. Wekiwa Springs SP is good for fox squirrel.
    Flying squirrels nest in old shacks at Archbold. Ask the people working there, they might know a place. There are sometimes freetail bats in the basketball stand in the parking lot.
    Lake Woodruff NWR has the muskrat and plenty of rice rats.
    Look for short-tailed shrews really good; they have recently been split there.

  • Marcus

    I agree with Vladimir that Wekiwa Springs is good for fox squirrel. Focus on the sandhill habitat near the campgrounds for your best shot. You may also see the mangrove subspecies in Big Cypress NP. I saw them occasionally along loop road and there are apparently some golf courses in Naples where they are very common. Turner River, Wagonwheel and Birdon Road in Big Cypress NP are all open at night. I saw my only panther on Turner River Road. Both bear and panther have higher populations in areas that have more pine and hammock vegetation rather than cypress so you may have a better shot with these species here than on Loop Road (though still low). The best area for bears (and panthers) in the park is the appropriately named Bear Island area, but it is difficult to access and may require a permit. Rice Rat are common in Big Cypress NP out in wet prairie habitat along with cotton rat, but I don’t know the legality of trapping for them. You could also call up Corkscrew Swamp sanctuary and ask about bears (their rangers are quite knowledgeable) as in the past there was a bear that would use the boardwalk to move around rather than get its feet wet in the morning and evening.

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