Everglades National Park is so unique that it’s easy to overlook how dangerous it can be. You never know what’s waiting for you above and below the water.
If you want the best chance of surviving, don’t visit without doing some research first. Otherwise, it could turn into a vacation nightmare.
Today, we’re sharing seven dangerous creatures you might encounter in Everglades National Park.
Let’s check it out!
About the Florida Everglades
The Florida Everglades consists of one and a half million acres of wetlands in southern Florida. You’ll find marshes, hardwood hammocks, and mangrove forests throughout this unique area of the state.
Unfortunately, when people began flocking to Florida to live and vacation, it severely impacted the wetlands. Luckily, officials stepped in and established Everglades National Park in 1947. This has significantly helped conservation efforts.
Approximately one million people visit the park each year. Many of them come to canoe, hike, or explore on guided boat tours to spot wildlife.
If you’re into birding, the Everglades is an excellent place to do it. Rangers estimate more than 360 different species of birds visit throughout the year. It’s hard to put an exact number as the list seems to grow constantly.
Be careful of keeping your eyes on the skies for too long. The most dangerous parts of the Everglades could be on the ground, in trees, or swimming in the water.
Here’s where to stay on your Florida trip: 11 Best Campgrounds In Florida.
#1 American Alligator
The American alligator is one of Everglades National Park’s most powerful and dangerous creatures. Growing up to 11 feet long and weighing nearly 500 pounds, giant reptiles can scurry about 35 mph on land.
When you combine their speed, size, and strength, it’s obvious why they should be left alone. You won’t stand a chance in an encounter with one.
They typically prey on fish, turtles, birds, and small mammals. While attacks on humans are rare, they do occur. The Sunshine State averages eight unprovoked bites per year. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates of getting bit are one in three million.
#2 American Crocodile
In 1975, officials added the American crocodile to the endangered species list. At the time, they numbered only a few hundred. But now, over 2,000 adults exist. Though no longer endangered, their classification is considered threatened.
They live along the Florida coast and in brackish and saltwater areas. However, crocodiles also inhabit ponds, coves, and mangrove swamp creeks.
Although similar, crocodiles and alligators are not the same. Crocodiles have a more V-shaped and pointed snout than alligators. They also tend to be larger, weighing as much as 2,200 pounds.
While they are aggressive, zero fatal attacks from crocodiles are on record. You’ll want to keep your distance to avoid a dangerous encounter during a trip to the Everglades.
#3 Florida Panther
Florida panthers once thrived throughout the southeast. Though currently, less than 100 remain. Unfortunately, they gained a reputation for being a threat to humans, livestock, and other wildlife. Hunted heavily, they faced near extinction in the 1950s.
These carnivorous cougars primarily dine on hogs, deer, raccoons, and an occasional armadillo. Fortunately, no reported panther attacks on people are on record in Florida.
The best way to avoid a run-in with a panther is to travel in groups and make noise. If you’re adventuring with pets, keep them on a leash. They’re most active during the dawn and dusk hours. Respect their space and be on the lookout while exploring.
Check out all the places to hike, bike, and paddle: Exploring Everglades National Park and the Surrounding Area.
#4 Widow Spiders
Two types of poisonous spiders reside in the Everglades, one of which is the widow spider. Females are much larger than males, but both have shiny abdomens with red markings on their backs and long legs.
You’ll typically find these dangerous creatures under rocks and logs in the Everglades. Unfortunately, they’re not afraid to get comfy in artificial structures such as abandoned buildings.
Bites from widow spiders can be painful, especially if you don’t seek treatment immediately. Luckily, deaths are very rare, especially for healthy adults.
#5 Florida Black Bear
The Florida black bear is the only bear species in the Sunshine State. Approximately 4,000 of these potentially dangerous mammals remain throughout Florida, including the Everglades. Growing human populations is leading to an increase in human-bear encounters.
While they typically prefer to avoid people, their powerful noses often attract them to residential areas. It’s common for black bears to become aggressive when they find regular food sources in neighborhoods.
Experts state these large animals will run away 90% of the time. However, a surprise meeting can turn deadly if they’re injured or being protective of food or their cubs.
Black bears typically have a soft dark coat with a stocky body and broad head. Males often weigh between 250 to 450 pounds, while females are smaller and weigh up to about 250 pounds.
#6 Florida Cottonmouth Snake
Another dangerous creature in the Everglades is the cottonmouth snake or water moccasin. Measuring up to 48 inches long, it has a light to dark brown, spotty body when young but turns almost entirely black as it ages. These venomous slithering reptiles are in every county in Florida.
Unfortunately, they are often misidentified as they appear similar to non-venomous water snakes. The water moccasin has a triangular-shaped head, vertical pupils, and a thick body.
It’s best to keep your distance from any snakes you come across while exploring the Everglades. However, if one does bite you, seek medical attention immediately. Without treatment, a strike from a poisonous snake can be life-threatening.
Non-native snakes are causing problems too: Revealed: A 15-foot Burmese Python Appears in This National Park.
#7 Alligator Snapping Turtle
The Alligator snapping turtle has a dinosaur-like appearance. Their spiky shells and prehistoric-looking faces resemble something from the time when the T-Rex roamed the Earth.
They’re the largest species of freshwater turtle on the planet. Males often weigh upwards of 175 pounds. And since they spend up to 50 minutes underwater before needing air, their shells often grow algae.
These reptiles are generally harmless unless you approach or provoke them. Their powerful jaws can generate 1,000 pounds of force. Fingers, hands, and other appendages won’t stand a chance against them. Do yourself a favor and enjoy them from a distance.
Avoid Dangerous Animals at Everglades National Park
The Everglades is a dangerous place if you’re not careful. But knowing what to look for can help maximize your safety.
Stay alert while exploring if a trip to this South Florida national park is in your plans. And educate everyone traveling with you about the potential dangers. That way, you’ll be able to share wonderful memories with friends and family back home.
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