Florida's State Animals
Florida has more than sunshine and amusement parks; it also has a range of natural resources and animals. Florida legislators have identified the following animals as state symbols to honor our natural environment.
Florida State Animal: Florida Panther
The Florida panther, one of Florida’s most endangered species, was designated as the official state animal in 1982.
Size: Male Florida panthers are about 7 feet long and weigh 85 to 155 pounds, while females are about 6 feet long, weighing 50 to 100 pounds.
Habitat: These panthers live in forested wilderness and cypress swamps throughout South Florida.
Florida State Marine Mammal: West Indian Manatee
The state legislature designated the West Indian manatee as Florida’s marine mammal in 1975. Despite its name, these manatees are native to Florida and portions of Central and South America, as well as the West Indies.
Size: West Indian manatees can grow up to 13 feet long and weigh 3,000 pounds.
Habitat: Floridians can find West Indian manatees in rivers, canals, estuaries, and saltwater bays.
Florida State Saltwater Mammal: Bottlenose Dolphin
Florida designated the playful bottlenose dolphin as the state’s saltwater mammal in 1975.
Size: Adult bottlenose dolphins are 6 to 9 feet, weighing 330 to 440 pounds.
Habitat: These dolphins live in family groups, known as “pods.” They can be found in brackish waters, river mouths, oceans, bays, and estuaries throughout the world.
Florida State Saltwater Fish: Sailfish
These popular game fish travel and feed in schools and have a tendency to leap out of water.
Size: The Atlantic variety of sailfish can grow up to 11 feet and weighs 25 to 50 pounds.
Habitat: Sailfish can be found in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
Florida State Freshwater Fish: Florida Largemouth Bass
Florida is the only state with two designated state fish—the sailfish for saltwater and the Florida largemouth bass, Florida’s official freshwater fish.
Size: These fish average 4 to 8 pounds with a maximum length of 3 feet.
Habitat: Florida largemouth bass prefer warm, slow-moving water and were introduced to other states, including Texas and California.
Florida State Reptile: American Alligator
Florida designated the American alligator as the state’s reptile in 1987 after it was listed as an endangered species 20 years earlier.
Size: Adult females average 8 feet and 160 pounds, while adult males average 11 feet and 400 pounds.
Habitat: American alligators can be found in swamps, deep marshes, lakes, ponds, rivers, and canals in North Carolina to Florida and west to central Texas.
Florida State Shell: Horse Conch
The horse conch, also known as the giant band shell, became Florida’s official state shell in 1967.
Size: As one of the largest snails in the world, horse conch shells can be 4 to 24 inches long.
Habitat: Conch shells are found in sandy, shallow marine waters near the shore.
Florida State Bird: Northern Mockingbird
The mockingbird was designated as Florida’s state bird in 1927 and is also the state bird in four other states.
Size: These birds are 9 to 11 inches.
Habitat: Northern mockingbirds range from southern California to southern Mexico, as well as the West Indies and Hawaii. They live in urban areas, farms, roadsides, and dense thickets.
Florida State Insect: Zebra Butterfly
The zebra butterfly (previously known as the zebra longwing) became Florida’s official insect in 1996, making it the newest state symbol.
Size: Zebra butterflies are typically 3 to 4 inches.
Habitat: These butterflies are somewhat rare throughout the southern United States coastal plain, but they can be found in extreme southern portions of the country, as well as Mexico, the West Indies, and South America. They live in hammocks, swamps, and forests.
Adapted and excerpted from:
M. B. Main and G. M. Allen, “Florida State Symbols (CIR1467),” UF/IFAS Wildlife and Ecology Conservation Department (rev. 10/11).
J. C. Daniels, “Zebra Longwing, Heliconius charitonia (Linnaeus) (Insecta: Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) (EENY 428),” UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology Department (rev. 02/2012).
Related Sites & Articles
- UF/IFAS Publications
- Did I See a Panther?
- Laws that Protect Florida's Wildlife
- Living with Alligators: A Florida Reality
- Other Sites & Publications
- Florida Panther Net--Florida FWC
- Fish Identification (Saltwater)--Florida FWC
- Nuisance Alligator Program—Florida FWC
- A Guide to Living with Alligators—Florida FWC (1.6MB pdf)