10 Weirdest Animals In Florida

Weirdest Animals In Florida

Let’s face it – Florida can be a weird place sometimes. No offense to Floridians. Not only is there a Florida Man, but there’s also a Florida Animal. The State is a cornucopia of weird, wild animals, native and non-native, and escaped pets that have grown to 5 times their size.

Let’s see together what are the 10 weirdest animals in Florida.

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1) White-Nosed Coati

White-Nosed Coati
White-Nosed Coati

These Raccoon-sized mammals can be found in trees around South Florida. Originally from Central and South America, these critters were first introduced into Florida as pets, but they have stuck around because of the abundance of juicy fruits and insects. They have a bushy, banded tail and reddish-brown fur. They have white and black patches on their faces that resemble raccoons, making them look like little tree bandits.

Coatis have a long and slender snout that looks like an anteater, and for a good reason. Coatis use their nose to search for and find food, but it is also perfectly shaped to fit into small insect holes. The White-Nosed Coati feeds on insects, fruits, and small mammals.

Next time you are in Florida, keep an eye out for these weird little lemur/anteater hybrids.

2) Capybara

largest rodent
Capybara

If you have ever seen the film The Princess Bride, you may recall the ginormous ROUS’s (or Rodents of unusual size) that terrorized our heroes in the Fire Swamp. At the same time, the movie is entirely fictional rodents of that size are not completely out of the question in some parts of Florida, although they are MUCH less aggressive.

The Capybara is native to South America and currently holds the record for the World’s largest rodent, with adults weighing up to 150 pounds. These semi-aquatic mammals have webbed feet and are often found grazing on marsh grasses and tree fruits. Capybaras are also surprisingly strong swimmers. They have small eyes and hairless ears set high on their heads to stay alert while submerged in water.

🐀 Take the Capybara Quiz and see how much you know about them.

Like many grassland mammals, Capybaras have teeth that are continuously growing. This means that the animals must use grazing as a way to not only get nourishment but also wear down their teeth. Another weird fact? Capybaras eat their own poop!

Protein-rich and apparently still tasty, this method allows for easier digestion. Resembling a very, very large Guinea Pig, the Capybara is definitely a strange sight to see when exploring the Sunshine state. Like many non-native species on this list, Capybaras are no threat to humans, but many ecologists worry about their effect on the native Floridian wildlife.

RELATED: 31 Capybara Gifts And Merchandise For Capybara Superfans – Capybara Gift Guide

3) Black Spiny Tailed Iguana

Black Spiny Tailed Iguana
Black Spiny Tailed Iguana

The Black Spiny Tailed Iguana gets its name from the black bands of keeled, elongated scales that run along with their bodies. These ravenous reptiles can reach up to 5 feet in length and have been known to eat anything from fruit and flowers to the eggs of some small mammals.

During mating season, the male iguanas showcase a bright orange color around their head and throat, giving them almost a clown look.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Black Spiny Tailed Iguana is the world’s fastest lizard, topping out at a whopping 21 mph, which means that only Olympic champion Usain Bolt could stand a chance at outrunning one of these critters. Due to their huge populations and invasive status, these lizards are sometimes called “chicken of the trees” in South America.

4) Alligator Gar

Of the hundreds of fish species that inhabit the temperate Florida waters, the Alligator Gar is the weirdest. This massive fish can reach up to 10 feet in length and has been known to weigh over 300 pounds. Alligator Gars have a distinctively cylindrical and narrow body with a long snout, not to mention their 2 rows of large teeth!

While their teeth may look a bit frightening to the casual fisherman, Gars are not known to attack humans and are considered piscivores, eating mostly other fish. Alligator Gars can be found in many rivers and ponds of the United States from Ohio south to Florida.

Like other fish, the Alligator Gar has gills, but these ‘living fossils’ also have a swim bladder that allows them to live and hunt in shallow bodies of water that may prove fatal for other fish. With their mouthful of teeth and highly adapted swim bladder, these fish seem pretty weird if you ask me!

5) Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill
Roseate Spoonbill

Recently moved to an ‘imperiled’ or endangered status, the Roseate Spoonbill is the only known Spoonbill bird native to the Western Hemisphere. Like the graceful Flamingos, the Roseate Spoonbill is actually pink in color due to its diet! The Spoonbill lives on a diet of crabs, crayfish, and shrimp, all of which are high in pigment carotenoids, which give the birds a pink hue ranging from rose to magenta.

While the Spoonbill commonly avoids people and busy cities, these birds have been found nesting on secluded Mangrove islands and various Florida bays. With a wingspan of 50 inches, it would be easy to spot these pink streaks flying through the air, so keep an eye out for these weird birds!

6) Nine-Banded Armadillo

Nine-banded Armadillo
Nine-banded Armadillo

When an Armadillo runs, one could get the feeling they are on wheels moving at speeds of nearly 30 mph. Unlike some other species of armadillo who can roll into a ball, using their hard shell as protection, Nine-banded Armadillos’ most valuable protection is their speed.

This species of armadillo is one of the largest, with adults weighing around 20 pounds. Their habitat stretches all across the Southern United States from Texas up to Arkansas and Florida.

So what is so weird about these little mammals? Well, besides their impressive speed and heavy armor, these animals are also capable of making it across rivers! Because they are so heavy, the Nine-banded Armadillo has developed two instrumental methods of water travel. They can either inflate their intestines and float across, or they can hold their breath and walk across the river bed. Nine-banded Armadillos can hold their breath for up to six minutes!

7) West Indian Manatee

These majestic animals are frequently called ‘sea cows’ due to their lumbering size and strict seagrass diet. Added to the Endangered Species List in the 70s, these gentle giants, unfortunately, have not been taken off since, but increasing population numbers are promising.

There are two subspecies of West Indian Manatees, one being the Florida Manatee. In the winter seasons, populations of manatees, sometimes as many as 6,000, can be found grazing in Florida’s Crystal River.

In addition to their resemblance to the cows that we know, Florida Manatees also have a weird adaptation that helps them navigate murky waters and find food. They have whiskers! Not only on their noses but all over their body. These bodily whiskers are called vibrissae. Vibrissae even allow manatees to distinguish different textures underwater.

There are some Florida areas, primarily around the aforementioned Crystal River, where you can see these animals and even take a swim with them! Remember to be gentle and take care not to frighten these skittish creatures.

8) Snail Kite

Snail Kite
Snail Kite

These Crow-sized raptors get their name from their insatiable appetite for Apple Snails. Unlike most birds of prey, these Kites have a very specialized diet. Because they have to eat escargot without a snail fork, these clever birds have a curved beak meant specifically for reaching into shells and pulling out the tender meat. Despite the menacing look of their sharp beak and red eyes, Snail Kites tend to avoid humans and nest in solitary areas.

While these birds can be found as far South as the Andes Mountains in North America, they are only found in the Everglades of Florida. You can spot them flying over marshes and wetlands with their eye trained on the terrain, searching for snails. The females are easily recognized with their pale and black plumage and hawk-like head.

9) Wood Storks

Wood Stork
Wood Stork

Much like the Snail Kite, the Wood Stork has a weird physical feature that makes them stand out: They’re bald! These birds have football-shaped bodies covered in pearl feathers with lengthy brown legs and light brown heads. Wood Storks are a member of the stork family despite their similarities to the Ibis.

Both families boast long necks and legs that are used to wade into swamps and ponds. Wood Storks are found in tropical and subtropical areas of the Americas, including the Caribbean and Florida.

Like most marsh, foul Wood Storks feed on a variety of aquatic life. During the dry season, storks will feed on insects and whatever fish they can find. Alternatively, during the wetter seasons, fish make up over half of their diet.

10) Florida Horse Conch

Florida Horse Conch
Florida Horse Conch

Do you know the state shell of Florida? You do now! The Florida Horse Conch is the largest gastropod ( snails and slugs) found anywhere in the Americas, and it is the second-largest snail in the world. Despite their name, they are not a type of conch. Their spiraling shells can reach nearly 24 inches in length and are usually yellow in color.

Regardless of their simple and innocent appearance, these mollusks are considered extremely predatory. Their diet consists primarily of other shelled animals such as snails and small hermit crabs. These weird snails have also been known to engage in cannibalism!

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Adrian Volenik

I've lived around animals my whole life and I hold a Diploma in Animal Physiology. When I'm not reading or writing about wild animals, health and fitness, and technology, you can find me playing with my son and two cats. My pastimes include running, playing video games, and solving the NY Times crossword.