Reptiles and Amphibians
A variety reptiles and amphibians can be found in and around springs including the American Alligator, the largest reptile in North America, and the Loggerhead Musk Turtle, which attains a maximum size of only five inches. Explore to learn more about our cold-blooded friends in the springs.
Capable of reaching lengths of up to 12 feet, the American Alligator is the largest reptile in North America and one of the most famed and feared residents of the spring environment. Though their populations were once reduced by illegal hunting, they are commonly seen during the day basking along river banks.
Commonly mistaken for eels, they are the largest of salamanders found in the United States. Greater Sirens are one of the most unique underwater inhabitants of the springs. Capable of exceeding three feet in length, they are one of the largest amphibians in the world and, unlike eels, must emerge from their secretive lairs near the bottom beneath leaves and other vegetation to surface for air.
Loggerhead Musk Turtle
Loggerhead Musk Turtles are rarely found outside of Florida's springs.They are able to absorb oxygen through their skin and reach a maximum size of only five inches. They are often found foraging in springs for algae, insects, and snails.
River Cooters and Florida Cooters are often found in springs basking on logs in large numbers, frequently in the company of other species of turtles. They will sometimes pile up on top of each other. They are shy and wary and quickly dive into the water where they can move with surprising speed. On land, they are not as agile. River Cooters rarely come ashore other than to nest or bask, but occasionally they are found wandering from one body of water to another.
Alligator Snapping Turtle
The largest freshwater turtle in the world, the Alligator Snapping Turtle can be found in springs. Like its distant relative, the common snapper, the alligator snapper has a large head and powerful jaws. However, the alligator snapper differs quite a bit from the common snapper, both in the way it looks and in the way it hunts and eats. All snapping turtles are both scavengers and active hunters to some degree. However, the Alligator Snapping Turtle is unique in that it has a small pink worm-like lure in the bottom of its mouth. It lies quietly on the bottom with jaws wide open, wiggling the lure to entice unwary fish to investigate.
The Gopher Tortoise is found in sandhill regions throughout Florida. You are most likely to see this reptile while exploring the spring's recharge area where it digs burrows in sandy dry soils. The Gopher Tortoise is a keystone species for its habitat with its burrows being used by the Eastern Indigo Snake and, when abandoned, by other reptiles as well as mammals.
Gray Rat Snake
Elaphe obsoleta spiloides
Often exceeding five feet in length, the Gray Rat Snake is a common resident of the vegetation and underbrush surrounding the springs and spring runs. Distinguished by its mottled gray coloring, the Gray Rat Snake feeds primarily on frogs, birds, and small rodents.
Eastern Indigo Snake
Drymarchon corais couperi
Listed as a threatened species throughout its range in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Alabama, the Eastern Indigo Snake is the largest non-venomous snake in North America. Capable of reaching lengths of eight feet, this shy and rarely seen springs resident feeds on small mammals, birds, frogs, and other snakes. The Indigo Snake feeds during the day and at night often hides in Gopher Tortoise burrows.