Miami – trip advice, and possible

Hi all,
Hope this is an ok request (and sorry for the cross-posting with North America Facebook page). I’m planning on going to Miami for a conference at the start of June, and then adding a day and a half on at the end for mammaling. I thought I’d ask here for advice on where I might go. I’ll obviously read the reports on the site too, and consult Vladimir’s book – so this is more for up-to-date info, and particularly information on sites near Miami and that are good in the summer (most reports are from the winter, I guess for good reason!). I’ll rent a car and could stay out of the city for one night (or two at a push). My most desired species (in order from more realistic through to less) are:
Manatee (just to see, rather than swim with; aware that they’re harder to see in the summer)
Southern flying squirrel
Marsh rabbit
Eastern spotted skunk
Round tailed muskrat
North Atlantic right whale
Florida panther
Any suggestions for where to look (or who to reach out to) would be ace. And please do feel free to message directly (ben DOT balmford AT gmail DOT com) if you’d rather not post publicly.


  • Bud Lensing

    We went out on a boat ride for birding from the Port of the Islands marina. They are located between Everglades City and Naples and saw two manatees within five to ten minutes. This was in 2018.

  • Morgan Churchill

    So I have visited Florida since becoming a birder once, in November, some years back.

    Of the critters on your list, Marsh rabbit seems somewhat easy at Green Cay and Wakodohatchee wetlands near Palm Springs. I had them there and I know others have as well.

    I also had manatee at the Flamingo marina in Everglades National Park (and American Crocodile as well)

    I think North Atlantic Right Whale is pretty impossible at that time of year…they should be well north of there as they only winter down south. Even then there really isn’t much whalewatching from what I can tell, other than some dolphin boat trips and the rare pelagic, that happens in Florida.

    Spotted Skunk sometimes gets flipped by herpers around Okeechobee. However herpers jealously guard their sites so you would need to get some connections to find specific sites

    Cougar is I think sometimes seen night-driving Big Cypress.

    Can’t help you with much else. Mammals have gotten a lot more scarce in Everglades though, thanks to the invasive Burmese Pythons. I don’t really consider the park to be exactly a mammalwatching paradise like some National Parks are.

  • Jon Swenson

    Hi Ben, I was in Miami at the end of March 2019 and I saw a manatee from the airplane on the north side of I-195 as we were coming in for a landing. Then I took a short manatee-watching tour at Naples ( and we saw several close to the boat. Good luck!

  • Morten Hansen

    Like Bud above I recommend Port of Island marina. You can watch manatees walking around the marina, but the best views are of course obtained if you hop onboard one of the small tour boats there.

    Marsh Rabbit is easily seen at Green Cay as mentioned by Morgan.

    I have only tried Florida Panther from a stakeout once – but without luck. They are few in numbers and require a lot of luck to see. As far as I know they are not really seen during the daytime haze, so it’s diffucult to give more specific advise other than try your luck at dusk.

    You could also try your luck with the Key Deer. There’s a small population on the Big Pine Key in the Keys. You are greeted with signs as soon as you reach the island asking people to slow down the vehicle and go like 20 mph. When I was there the sign noted how many deers had been killed by traffic in the past year. I managed to see one at a stakeout I found myself near a wooded area. I didn’t have to wait long before 1 animal appeared from the forest and slowly moved out on the road walking around quietly.

  • benbalmford

    Hi all,
    First, sorry for my delays in getting back to you. And second, a really big thanks – this is all super helpful stuff. On the back of this, my plan is to take a day trip to the Florida Keys pre-conference, fit in some time at Green Cay during my Miami stay, and then have a night based out towards Naples, taking a boat trip in the day, and hopefully spotlighting (maybe in Big Cypress) at night for southern flying squirrel (other recommendations for where to go for that much appreciated!).
    Thanks again

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