Mammals are found almost anywhere in the world. They're like one gigantic club. The members are so different from one another that it can be a little confusing.
Think about it, mammals include animals that are great and strong like the elephants of Africa to animals small as a mouse that just might be living in your very own house.
So how do you get to belong to such an amazing club? What are the traits of a mammal? Do you know?
To belong in this club, all you need to do is meet some basic requirements:
you must be warm blooded
you must have fur or hair on your body
your species must be able to produce milk for their young
you must have lungs and breathe air
and you must have vertebrae (backbone/ spine)
All mammals are able to meet these requirements.
Hey, you know what?
We're mammals, which means we belong to the club too!
There are mammals that live on land like the Florida panther, in the seas and oceans like the dolphins, whales, and manatees, underground like the moles, and even in the air like bats (did you know that the bat is the only mammal able to fly).
Now that we know some cool facts about this group of animals, let's go learn more about some of the Everglades' very special mammals.
Let's take a look at the Florida panther!
What would Florida be without its state mammal, the Florida panther?
Panthers are great climbers. They are swift and strong, yet incredibly timid creatures. Their favorite food is the white-tailed deer.
If you spot one, you are very lucky and I'll tell you why.
Panthers, of course, need space to raise their cubs, but because they are such large predators they also need a lot of space to hunt for food. In fact, an adult male cat could have a territory of anywhere from 200 to 500 square miles depending on the quality (how good it is) of the habitat.
They are not very active in the day time. Instead, they wait to hunt till dusk or dawn when it is a lot cooler and their prey (food) is more active. We call those types of animals crepuscular.
There are not many around. In all of southern Florida, we think there are about 100 panthers. In Everglades National Park, there are somewhere between 10 to 15 panthers. That's not a lot.
So if you are lucky enough to spot this rare and endangered (which means there are not many left) animal, make certain to take a good long look!
Another mammal you may see, is the West Indian Manatee.
These large, gentle animals spend the winter months along the warm waters of the Florida coast and other inland bodies of water. They can still be seen throughout the year but they migrate up the coasts.
These slow-swimming animals spend a big part of their day grazing on seagrass and freshwater vegetation.
Did you know, explorers mistakenly called them mermaids?