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Top: looking like dancing black bears, these two are probably juveniles sparring with each other until the day when they become serious about territories (photo by Ricky Pires); below: a glossy ibis walks the shallows of a swamp probing for food; bottom: a great egret, in breeding plumage, stands majestically between feedings of small fish.

Wildlife The rich diversity of plant life on the Refuge is mirrored by its equally diverse wildlife. Florida panther and black bear prowl the forest while wild turkey and white-tailed deer forage in the hammocks, pinelands, and prairies. Tufted titmouse and northern parulas nest in the oak hammocks, as wood storks and other wading birds utilize the seasonal wetlands for foraging. Pig frogs grunt their chorus from the swamps and swallow-tailed kites soar overhead. As night falls, barred owls silently hunt for prey as bats dive after the myriads of mosquitoes. A total of 126 bird species, 46 species of reptiles and amphibians, 22 species of mammals and a large variety of fish are found on the Refuge. By protecting habitat for the Florida panther, we protect habitat and water quality for the entire ecosystem. The panther is an umbrella species, an animal that once protected, provide protection for any other species that lives within its umbrella-like range.

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