We may live in a bustling city, but we can't help be a little wild! Nestled in our trees, tucked under river rocks, swimming in our canals and perching on our rooftops are some of our most interesting neighbors. Millions of insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds, small mammals, marine mammals and fish of all sizes call Fort Lauderdale home. Our students and our schools can do a lot to make sure that we don't lose our wild side!
Why go wild?
Tourists come to see them, and that's good for our economy, but there are other very important reasons why we need to protect local wildlife and the habitats they call home. Animals in our area play important roles in our ecosystem. Some, like bees and hummingbirds, are what we call "productive pollinators." Without them, wild plants and those grown by home gardeners and farmers would not be able to thrive and to produce seeds and fruit. Some animals, like bats and ladybugs, are "natural pest control." This means that they help to control nuisance animals that are hurtful or destructive, like mosquitoes, whitefly and rats. A third type of animal are "migrating visitors," for example certain types of birds and butterflies. Our area serves as an important stop-over on their migration routes. The City of Fort Lauderdale is a part of the Atlantic Flyway, a migration route for birds along the Atlantic coast of North America, the Caribbean, and South America. The Atlantic Flyway transports over 500 species of birds each year. The flyway is a favorite of birds because there are no mountains to make flying difficult, and there are many forests, beaches, and wetlands along the way. Common migrating birds that you may see in South Florida include the Lesser Nighthawk, Swainson's Hawk, Rufous Hummingbird, Vermilion Flycatcher, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and Western Tanager.
And of course we have the stars of our seas-- the manatees, sea turtles, dolphins and myriads of fish who live off our shores. You can learn all about the animals that live in our area by visiting Our Wild Neighbors.
Protected animals are also known as threatened or endangered animals. An endangered species is an animal that is in danger of becoming extinct. A threatened animal is one who will become endangered unless something is done to increase the population. Examples of protected species in Florida include the American Crocodile, Florida Panther, Florida Scrub Jays, Florida Black Bear, Bald Eagle, and seven species of bats.
Animals are also key to maintaining the general balance of our ecosystem. Take any one species out, and another could take over. Imagine life in South Florida without those little lizards we see darting all over our street, sidewalks and yards. They're not just cute; they're important. Small reptiles eat a diet that is mostly made up of bugs. Without all of our little lizard friends, we'd have way too many insects. Also, those little lizards get eaten themselves-- by snakes, birds of prey, and some small mammals who would all need to find other sources of food or would die out without the lizards. To keep our fragile food chain in balance, we need all of Fort Lauderdale's wild neighbors.
How to go wild.
How do we protect them? It's simple. Animals need four things: a source of water, a source of food, shelter, and a place to raise young. Those are the essential components of a wildlife habitat, and that's where you come in. You can help to support our animal population by providing or preserving that habitat. Here are five things you can learn about, share with your family and get started doing right away.
Learn to Garden.
Keep wildlife wild.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) website provides a Species Profile page on different kinds of wildlife found in Florida.
Check out the FWC’s detailed list of freshwater and saltwater fish. There you can find information on individual species including native status, pictures, habitat and behavior information, and fishing tips.
Check out the Florida Ornithological Society’s Official Florida State Bird List for a detailed description of all kind of birds that can be found in Florida.
Want to search for endangered and threatened animals in Broward County, or other counties in Florida? Florida State University’s Florida Natural Areas Inventory provides an informative and interactive Field Guide to the Rare Plants and Animals of Florida.
Ever wonder what creatures come out after the sun goes down? Bring your family to a Full Moon Night Sight at Snyder Park and take a unique, full moon guided tour and learn about our local nocturnal wildlife.
Contact Snyder Park for more information:
3299 S.W. 4th Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33315