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The Wildlife of Big Cypress National Preserve

Big Cypress National Preserve has some of the most diverse plants and wildlife in the world.

One of the places that has a special hold on me is the Everglades area of Florida. It’s a wild, huge place filled with birds and wildlife as diverse as the flooded cypress and sawgrass prairies that make up the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States.

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Every time I’m in south Florida, I budget time for the glades. I’ve ridden my bicycle along an eight-mile paved loop at Shark Valley, cruising yards past snoozing gators with their huge tooth-filled mouths open to cool off.

There are airboat rides, nature walks where you can actually get wet and wade in the swamp, and fishing not to be believed.

When and What to See

The winter dry season, which lasts from December to April, is the best time for wildlife viewing in the park. Weather conditions are generally pleasant during the winter and standing water levels are low, causing wildlife to congregate at central water locations.

Shark Valley, the Anhinga Trail at Royal Palm, and Eco Pond in the Flamingo area are popular areas for viewing alligators, wading birds, and other wildlife. Boaters have additional access to wildlife viewing opportunities in Florida Bay and along the Gulf Coast.

Big Cypress National Preserve

Big Cypress National Preserve

On one trip, I devoted an afternoon to the Big Cypress National Preserve. It’s a 729,000 acre part of the Everglades whose crystal clean freshwater plays a vital role in the health of the entire ecosystem of south Florida.

Jennifer and I drove a 24-mile loop road that runs south and east off Highway 41 at about mile marker 59.

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Wood stork

It’s a dirt and gravel road, well maintained but meant for slow travel. Bounded on both sides by trees, there are frequent drainage ditches and small open spots all along the route.

It’s fine for Class B and Class C RVs. Too rough for a Class A. And once you commit, there are limited spots to turn around.

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The water is crystal clear

Amazing Wildlife Viewing

Found here are dozens of species of mammals, birds, and reptiles unique to Florida’s climate. It is easy to view and appreciate Florida’s largest reptile, the American alligator, living here in its natural environment. They are in almost every water hole, all along the banks, even sunning themselves on the shoulder of the road.

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Egret

The birds are something else: Anhingas, egrets, wood storks, and herons are found in plentiful numbers feeding, displaying courtship feathers, and nesting in and among the cypress trees.

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I think I like alligators so much because they always seem to me smiling

There’s a reason the speed limit is 25 miles an hour. Herons often launch from the trees and fly right across and over the road. Because of their bulk, it takes them some considerable wing power to get to altitude and if we had been traveling faster, we would have hit one several times.

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Heron

Occasionally, one can witness river otters, bobcats, black bears, and the endangered Florida panther on the Preserve’s back roads and trails. We didn’t see any panthers, but Route 41 is peppered with warning signs noting that panthers frequently cross the road.

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Swamp beauty – ferns surrounding a cypress stump

Invasive Wildlife in Everglades National Park

Not all of the animals are native. 

In recent years, snakes from around the world have been turning up in and around Everglades National Park. Burmese pythons, one of the largest snake species on earth, are now known to be breeding in the park and spreading throughout south Florida. 

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This python was 16 feet long! Florida Dept. of Wildlife photo

Over 5,000 pythons have been removed from the park and surrounding areas-likely representing only a fraction of the total population. The population of Burmese pythons presently established in the park is the result of accidental and/or intentional releases by pet owners.

These introductions can have devastating consequences on our ecosystem. Burmese pythons have been found to feed on a wide variety of mammals and birds in the Everglades-even the occasional alligator!

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Gators are everywhere

By preying on native wildlife, and competing with other native predators, pythons are seriously impacting the natural order of south Florida’s ecological communities. The continued proliferation of Burmese pythons-and the continued introduction of new foreign species-can further threaten many of the endangered plants and animals we’re working diligently to protect.

These creatures reach 15-20 feet in length. We didn’t see one. Jennifer considers that good. Me, I would have liked to get my own photo instead of the Florida wildlife one used above.

Big Cypress National Preserve Visitors Center

The trip we took on the scenic loop road makes for a delightful afternoon. There’s a large visitors center for the Big Cypress National Preserve on US 41 that is well worth seeing.

And there are numerous federal campgrounds right off 41 up and down 41 from Naples to Miami. Most have openings every day.

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The water teems with fish

Many campgrounds have amazing access to fishing opportunities and some even provide gear for their campers. If you want to maximize your experience, I recommend hiring a fishing guide. These guides know the complex everglades and variety of fish like the back of their hands.


We RVers may wander far and wide but it’s true for most of us that we end up with some favorite “Go-To” places – places that draw us back again and again.

Florida is one of those places for us. And we know it is for many RVers looking to get away and explore during the winter. 

That’s why we’ve created three guides, covering Florida’s Atlantic Coast, the Gulf Coast, and the Keys. 

Each of these guides is a seven-day guided exploration of one of the coasts. And each stop is a curated view of the best things that we’ve enjoyed on this trip and want you to experience.

All together these guides are over 300 pages of content! 


96 Responses to “The Wildlife of Big Cypress National Preserve”

March 07, 2014at3:44 pm, Anna Hooper-Mixon said:

and they seriously have this in their arms!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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March 04, 2014at8:18 pm, Joanne Dorfman said:

Great story but I am scared of snakes and alligators.

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March 04, 2014at7:33 am, Pinky Jorden said:

Brave people i would Not Not i say even touch it!!

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March 03, 2014at8:58 am, Joseph and Virginia Farrug said:

Hi Jennifer and Mike, weare also in southern Florida and love to visit the Everglades but we could not go this year ,we did explore those areas 2 years ago with a guide it was great ,we are going on a cruise to panama and Costa Rica this week , have been doing exercises in the pool here Joe and Ginny Farrug

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March 02, 2014at8:10 pm, Saul Garcia said:

What the hell are they feeding those snakes

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March 02, 2014at11:05 am, Bruce N Mary Nedeau said:

OH – MY – GOD Donna Lehman-Levesque!

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March 02, 2014at10:13 am, Frank Cordaro said:

Not a native species

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March 02, 2014at7:51 am, Nancy Capparelli said:

I’ll pass that.

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March 02, 2014at7:47 am, Donna Lehman-Levesque said:

How do you like this one Bruce N Mary Nedeau?

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March 02, 2014at3:17 am, Evelin Weiss said:

Wenn man die Schlange sieht,glaubt man kaum daß es sie wirklich gibt

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March 02, 2014at12:05 am, Gloria Youngblood Woda said:

No Way!!!!!

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March 01, 2014at10:15 pm, Daniel Robbins said:

That’s a big ass snake.

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March 01, 2014at9:24 pm, Linda Eggeman said:

YUCK!

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March 01, 2014at8:57 pm, Donna Lane OConnor said:

I am staying at the Long Pine Campground at the eastern entrance to the Everglades and I love it! There are at least 3 other Roadtreks in the campground right now. There is plenty to do and lots to see in the Everglades. I’ve never run into one of those snakes yet! Love this place!!

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March 01, 2014at8:45 pm, Dan Broertjes said:

How many bullets did you put thru that snake?

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March 01, 2014at7:09 pm, Doug Wiegers said:

Used to live near there…amazing place

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March 01, 2014at6:06 pm, Chris Alt said:

my post disappreared

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March 01, 2014at6:06 pm, Chris Alt said:

you just need to stay safe and be on your toes and look where you are going down there, I like Florida

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March 01, 2014at5:34 pm, Joan St Laurent said:

I hate snakes!

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March 01, 2014at5:32 pm, Rhonda Messersmith said:

No, Thank you…NO!!

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March 01, 2014at4:56 pm, Ronda Deel said:

It won’t fit in the RT!

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March 01, 2014at4:29 pm, Linda Diaz said:

Pair of shoes, hang bag and dinner lol

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March 01, 2014at4:20 pm, Cymande Haalan said:

Is that a big passed snake? Oh hell to da naw! No Florida for me…

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March 01, 2014at4:20 pm, Gail Jurick said:

Like ewwhh…………

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March 01, 2014at3:27 pm, Linda Maisey said:

Is there any way to return these creatures to the Amazon?

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March 01, 2014at3:21 pm, Charles Breuss said:

Angela Kelly

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March 01, 2014at3:21 pm, Charles Breuss said:

Carmary Rodriguez-Breuss

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March 01, 2014at3:02 pm, Linda Maisey said:

That snake looks well fed!

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March 01, 2014at2:41 pm, Bev Laing said:

Ewwwwwwwww!!!!!!!

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March 01, 2014at2:21 pm, Travis Hester said:

travel and see new things; I aint going there.

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March 01, 2014at2:20 pm, Travis Hester said:

I have always love to trave;

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March 01, 2014at2:15 pm, Vyktor Menendez said:

SON OF @ B…. !!!

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March 01, 2014at2:08 pm, Bill Lewis said:

Sweetie, were never going to the Everglades!

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March 01, 2014at1:59 pm, Beth Hall said:

Yikes!!! I’ll stay in northern nevada. !!!

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March 01, 2014at1:35 pm, Claudia Harrison said:

Can I borrow it for a week…got a big rat problem in my house 😉

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March 01, 2014at1:21 pm, Michelle W. Hanley said:

Well no more Everglades for me!!!

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March 01, 2014at1:18 pm, Robert Starkey said:

Happy I’m not running Florida. !!!!

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March 01, 2014at1:12 pm, Connie Lyons Shook said:

No way , don’t wanna go there…

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March 01, 2014at1:01 pm, Reuben Ouimet said:

You guys should kill that snake before swallowing….

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March 01, 2014at12:35 pm, Robert Robinson said:

I need a new pair a boots, n a coat. That snake will do just fine! 🙂

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March 01, 2014at11:59 am, Dianne Rose-Moten said:

NO Thanks!!! Ill pass

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March 01, 2014at11:58 am, Daniel J Diller said:

I had another encounter on that kayak trip, I heard a gator coming out of the glades, I looked over and he and I were eye to eye, 3 ft from me, he was as startled as I was, he dove under my kayak and was gone. Maybe an 8 footer, not anything like the one in the photo. Both had my heart pounding

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March 01, 2014at11:49 am, Peter Parker said:

ha ha that’s not a snake, now THIS is a snake

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March 01, 2014at11:02 am, Martha Crafton said:

We spent three wonderful days there in late January. Previously, we had experienced the western edge via boat. Anchored off the Shark River, come sundown, hundreds, maybe thousands of white Ibis flew overhead to their nesting areas. This time, we enjoyed watching as egret flew low, just above the canal along Hwy 41; flocks of Rosette Spoonbill shuffling through shallow waters in search of food and the amazing sight of an alligator tossing and slamming a smaller ‘gator down into the water. Our Roadtrek was perfect for the road down to Flamingo with plenty of room to pull over and take in the views.

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March 01, 2014at10:59 am, Kim Haverstock Winch said:

I hope it’s dead

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March 01, 2014at10:45 am, Joseph Mullin said:

not sure i wanna go to florida !!!!!!

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March 01, 2014at10:10 am, David M Bleile said:

all because idiots get them as Babies, and when they get to be 6 ft. long , they can’t handle them so they DUMP them

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March 01, 2014at10:02 am, Daniel J Diller said:

way to close, while kayaking the Turner River I was inching forward to photograph a water lily, and I looked up and I was eyeball to eyeball with the biggest gator I’ve ever seen, he was hissing at me as I was about 6 ft from him, not quite in focus as I was back peddling as fast as I could.

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March 01, 2014at11:50 am, Peter Parker said:

You were LUCKY that gator decided to warn you instead of attacking

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March 01, 2014at12:26 pm, Dean Upson said:

I bet it cured your constipation!

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March 01, 2014at12:44 pm, Daniel J Diller said:

pretty much so, Dean.

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March 01, 2014at3:28 pm, Daniel J Diller said:

neither of us were very happy

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March 01, 2014at6:02 pm, Chris Alt said:

that looks like an old one too call the Swamp People on History

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March 01, 2014at6:30 pm, Sherry Moore Kane said:

omg

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March 02, 2014at10:11 pm, Barbara Rainey said:

Yikes!!!

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March 01, 2014at10:00 am, JR Cline said:

Awesome

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March 01, 2014at9:53 am, Daniel J Diller said:

great article, we winter in Florida and have hiked, biked, and kayaked the area. Last year we did a swamp buggy ride though the Panther preserve, no spottings but saw fresh prints.

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March 01, 2014at9:37 am, Kathy Baugh said:

Oh no!! Scaey!!

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March 01, 2014at9:31 am, Beth Nolan said:

I will never go to Everglades now!!!

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March 01, 2014at9:30 am, Larry Marr said:

I get that many of them need to be destroyed but surely some could go to zoos around the country?

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March 01, 2014at9:25 am, Biljana Delic Dedic said:

After hurricane Andrew in south Florida shatter for exotic animals was destroyed some of those snakes find new home in Everglades, since they have no natural predators there is thousands of them in Everglades now. Once a year there is open hunt on them hopefully one day Everglades will be clean again.

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March 01, 2014at9:24 am, Denice Bastoni said:

You. Can. Keep. It!!

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March 01, 2014at9:12 am, Andre D Bryant Sr said:

No everglades for me

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March 01, 2014at9:10 am, Duffy Deroy said:

These people are nuts

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March 01, 2014at9:04 am, Denise Linscott said:

I think I would want a larger motor home for that trip

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March 01, 2014at8:59 am, Biljana Delic Dedic said:

Those snakes don’t have a natural predators in Everglades, destroyed everything…..very sad 🙁

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March 01, 2014at8:56 am, Amanda Whitney said:

OMG !!

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March 01, 2014at8:55 am, Mel Deveau said:

A stick of dynomite just to make sure……

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March 01, 2014at8:47 am, Matt Tammy Maxwell said:

Still thinking of going to Florida ?

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March 01, 2014at8:46 am, David Linton-hewling said:

Wow

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March 01, 2014at8:40 am, Louella Beach said:

…no camping anywhere near

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March 01, 2014at8:40 am, Laura H P said:

Thanks for this article, Mike. We enjoyed the loop road earlier this year. We saw LOTS of ‘gators, birds and fish. It is an amazing area. We hope to camp in one of the campgrounds you mention next season. Continued safe travels!

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March 01, 2014at8:38 am, Eleaner Palmer said:

No Thank you = nasty

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March 01, 2014at8:36 am, Dodger Darrell Murray said:

I HATE SNAKES…

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March 01, 2014at8:36 am, Becky Taylor said:

I hope u guys killed that big thing. Those snakes eat cats, dogs and little kids. Nasty.

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March 01, 2014at8:34 am, Mike Lopez said:

wow thats is a big one

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March 01, 2014at8:33 am, Neil Hey said:

Wtf!! Thats awesome!!!

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March 01, 2014at8:29 am, Hugo Lopez said:

Those snakes are destroying the everglades

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March 01, 2014at8:29 am, Cheryl T. Couch said:

OMG!!!!!!! Thats just crazy!!!!!!!:o

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March 01, 2014at8:26 am, Fred Showker said:

yup we were just there … but didn’t see one of those!

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