So, I don't think I want to live in Florida. It was really hot and muggy while we were there (and it's only May!), and there were so many mosquitoes (oh, the mosquitoes). But there was one super awesome thing about Florida that kind of made me envy the people who get to live there, and that was the tons of reptiles and amphibians all over the place. We traveled around central Florida a bit, and then went east to the Atlantic Ocean, and everywhere we went there were reptiles and amphibians to see!
As it turns out, Florida is a haven for exotic creatures from all over the world, including lots of introduced herps (just look at this long list of non-native reptiles). Those introduced Brown Anoles we saw in Disney World, for example, were everywhere else we went, too, and they're apparently quite adept at out-competing native anole species, which is probably why they're so common. And just outside of Disney World, we encountered another aggressively invasive species, which happens to also be one of the most adorable things I've seen. It's the Cuban Treefrog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) (I have a real weakness for treefrogs):
These guys were hanging around in the pool area of the house where we were staying in Kissimmee, and they had some really raucous parties at night. One individual calling from the step outside our door woke me up at 5:00 AM because it was so loud that I thought it was in the room with us. (That individual not pictured.)
These creatures are definitely cute, but they could do with a little less noise, and a little less eating of native species, thank you very much.
The most prominent nighttime residents around our home base on the coast, on the other hand, were geckos, also introduced but apparently not too much of a problem for native species:
I'm fairly certain that these creatures are Mediterranean Geckos, but I could be wrong. These little lizards showed some serious ninja skills, shimmying up walls and into crevices, and blending in remarkably well with the texture of the sidewalk:
It wasn't all introduced species, however, and we found some native reptiles and amphibians in a few unexpected places. A Southeastern Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon inexpectatus) was lounging at the side of a path in Disney World, for example:
And what better spot for a native Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea) to escape from the blazing sun than a nice shady porta-potty. We found quite a few of these bright green blobs hiding out in such sanitary structures at the entrance to one wildlife refuge -- refuge indeed!
(The smaller frog on the right in this picture might possibly be a different species, a Squirrel Treefrog (Hyla squirella), but I'm not exactly confident in my identification of these unfamiliar creatures.)
I couldn't resist this next picture of one of the resident toilet frogs -- I feel like the graffitied smiley-face pretty much perfectly reflects the frog's own expression. :P (Have I mentioned how much I LOVE treefrogs?)
We encountered one final reptile on our trip, and it's a really cool one: the Gopher Tortoise!
Gopher Tortoises are listed as threatened in the state of Florida, and the eastern population is a candidate for the federal endangered species list (the population in the western portion of its range is federally threatened). These big, foot-and-a-half-long tortoises actually dig burrows in the ground (hence "gopher"), providing shelter for themselves but also for hundreds of other species that use the burrows as well.
We found this group of several tortoises right in the middle of a housing development on the Atlantic coast. Some nice people had left a couple of lots undeveloped so that the tortoises could continue to live there -- and I'm glad they did, because we got to hang out with these awesome creatures. What would it be like to live in a place where tortoises lumbered across your lawn?
We saw plenty of other creatures besides reptiles and amphibians on our travels, so there will be one final post to wrap up the Florida trip. Stay tuned!
(Incidentally, you might have noticed a big hole in this account of Florida herps: Alligators! We looked and looked, but managed to somehow see none of these infamous southern residents. Oh well, maybe next time!)