Floridian Nature

Learn about Florida's beautiful and unique nature.





Florida Nature: Rodents
With over 2000 living species placed in about 30 families, rodents are by far the largest order of mammals. Rodents range in size from the pygmy mice to capybaras, the largest of which weigh over 150 pounds.  Some Florida rodents spend their entire lives above the ground in the canopy of trees; others seldom emerge from beneath the ground. Some species are highly aquatic, while others are equally specialized for life in deserts.

The American beaver is typically dark, reddish brown but varies from a yellowish brown to almost black.American  Beaver- The American beaver is typically dark, reddish brown but varies from a yellowish brown to almost black. They have a very distinctive flattened, scaly tail, which is a fat storage area. The beaver's hind feet are webbed and clawed, and their front feet are smaller and not webbed. American beavers aquatic habits are accommodated by valves that can close off the ears and nose when underwater, and a clear membrane that closes over the eyes. Their lips seal behind their incisors, which allows them to gnaw wood underwater. The American beaver's total length is 40 to 52 inches, with a tail length of 10.4 to 13 inches, and they weigh 22 to 75 pounds. Beavers are dependent on slow-flowing brooks, streams, and rivers for dam construction, but they do also live in small lakes and rivers in Northern Florida. American beavers prefer bark of deciduous trees such as aspen, willow, birch and even maple as well as various woody shrubs. . They also eat roots of tuberous aquatic plants, especially pond lilies which they utilize more during summer months. They do not eat fish or other aquatic animals, which is contrary to what many people think.

Strange sheep-sized rodents with webbed feet are showing up in Florida’s rivers and canals! These weird looking animals are capybara – a 100-lb guinea-pig-like creature.Capybara- Strange sheep-sized rodents with webbed feet are showing up in Florida’s rivers and canals! These weird looking animals are capybara – a 100-lb guinea-pig-like creature. Capybaras have heavy, barrel-shaped bodies with short heads. Their fur is reddish brown on the upper parts and yellowish brown underneath. Adult capybaras may be as long as four feet and are 1.6 feet tall. Capybara spend most of their time grazing in dense grass and swampy vegetation around rivers, lakes and marshes. They can run fast, and if they feel threatened will dive into the water and swim with only their nostrils, eyes and ears above the surface. Today, capybara are native to Central and South America, found from Panama south to Argentina. But they used to live as far north as Florida. Eleven thousand years ago, in the Pleistocene, two species of capybara roamed the grasslands and waterways of peninsula Florida. The capybara that are being seen today are most likely the descendents of escaped captives, but people still find fossilized capybara teeth and bones from Florida’s original capybara in the Santa Fe, Suwannee, St Marks and St Mary’s Rivers in North Florida. You may also find capybara fossils in springs and spring runs like the Ichneetucknee River.



Coypu, or Nutria as they are sometimes called, are covered with a soft, dense, slate-colored coat with long bristles. Coypu- Coypu, or Nutria as they are sometimes called, are covered with a soft, dense, slate-colored coat with long bristles. The tail is covered with scales and is round. The coypu's eyes and ears are small, and the snout has long whiskers. The hind feet of the coypu are partly webbed and hairless. The incisors are large, conspicuous, and yellow. The coypu grows over two feet long, with another eighteen inches for the tail. It can weigh twenty pounds. The coypu swims skillfully and is mainly active at dusk, although also during the day. It spends the night in its deep burrow, which is dug on dry land, and it lives in quite large groups. Coypu eat aquatic plants, earthworms, and bivalve mollusks. Coypu's spend a great deal of time grooming their coat, first dampening it with a liquid secreted by glands situated near its mouth, and then cleaning and combing industriously with its claws. Predators of the coypu include wild cats, red wolves, large snakes, and people (who raise and kill coypu for its soft undercoat and its meat). When in danger, the coypu often goes into the water; it is a strong swimmer but is clumsy on land. Females give birth to a litter of 4-6 young in a litter. Newborns have hair and teeth at birth; their eyes are open as newborns. Nutrias are mature at about 6 months of age. Adult females have 2 to 3 litters each year.

The eastern chipmunk, a species special concern in Florida, lives in open deciduous forests and at the edges of woodlands. Eastern Chipmunk- The eastern chipmunk has reddish-brown fur on its back and sides and white fur on its stomach. It has two white stripes bordered by black on its sides and one black stripe on the center of its back. The eastern chipmunk has light stripes above and below its eyes and it has pouched cheeks that it uses to store and carry food. The eastern chipmunk, a species special concern in Florida, lives in open deciduous forests and at the edges of woodlands. It can also be found in bushy areas and in rocky areas like walls near houses and other buildings. The eastern chipmunk spends a large part of its waking hours gathering and storing food for the winter. Eastern chipmunks are also very vocal and can be heard chattering as they gather food. In fact, they get their name chipmunk from the "chip-chip" sound that they make! Most of the eastern chipmunk's diet is made up of  nuts, acorns, seeds, mushrooms, fruits, berries and corn. It also eats insects, bird eggs, snails and small mammals like young mice.
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