Class Mammalia in the Christopher B. Smith Preserve

Class Mammalia Characteristics: Like birds, mammals are endothermic, generating their own heat. Unlike birds, mammals have hair and mammary glands. Around the world, there are both aquatic and terrestrial members of the class. Within the Smith Preserve, nine mammals (besides humans) have been photographed.

Interactions in the Smith Preserve: Mammals affect species diversity by keeping populations of organisms in check. Herbivores impact plant populations, carnivores impact animal populations, and omnivores impact both populations. Mammals act as ecological landscapers when they create trails and burrows, add nutrients to soil in their excretions, mix and aerate soil when they dig, and distribute plant seeds stuck to their fur. By being prey for predators and host for parasites, they provide energy for other organisms.

 
Order
Family
Species Name
Common Name
Carnivora
Canidae
Canis latrans
Coyote
Carnivora
Felidae
Felis rufus
Bobcat
Carnivora
Procyonidae
Procyon lotor
Common Raccoon
Cingulata
Dasypodidae
Dasypus novemcincus
Nine-Banded Armadillo
Didelphimorphia
Didelphidae
Didelphis virginana
Virginia Opossum
Insectivora
Talpidae
Scalopus aquaticus
Eastern Mole
Lagomorpha
Leporidae
Sylvilagus floridanus
Eastern Cottontail
Rodentia
Sciuridae
Sciurus carolinensis
Eastern Gray Squirrel
Rodentia
Sciuridae
Sciurus niger avicennia
Big Cypress Fox Squirrel

 

Order Carnivora

Canis latrans

Coyote

Canis latrans has a home range that typically covers 5 to 10 square miles. The Smith Preserve is within the home range of at least one coyote pack. Visits are documented by tracks, scat, a burrow (den), and a skull. Photographs 1 and 2 above show the skull. Next to the skull, as shown in photographs 2 and 3, is scat with fur. The second photograph below shows a den.

In addition to the coyote artifacts, multiple vocalizing coyotes have been heard after an emergency siren has sounded. Also, images taken at night with remote cameras have captured some visits. The photograph below, courtesy of Ian Bartoszek, Conservancy of Southwest Florida biologist, is one of these images.

Some interesting facts about coyotes include the following: mature coyotes are 1 to 1.5 m long with a 40 cm tail; their color is salt-and-pepper gray with patches of tan or brown; they travel along fixed trails and mark their territories with urine; they make high-pitched howls, yips, yelps, and barks and Canis latrans means "barking dog" in Latin; they have keen eyesight, hearing, and sense of smell; coyotes are full grown and sexually mature in one year, after which they breed once per year; the litter size averages 6 pups, but 70% do not survive to adulthood; they are primarily nocturnal, but are most active at dawn and dusk; in the wild they have a life expectancy of 10 years; they are opportunistic feeders with most of their diet being small mammals, but they will also eat birds, snakes, lizards, carrion, fruits, and vegetables.

Distinguishing characteristics between coyote and dog tracks: a coyote's tracks tend to be more oval-shaped and compact than those of a domestic dog, and the claw marks are less prominent. Also, the tracks follow a straight line more closely than those of a dog.

Within the Preserve, coyotes benefit bird and small mammal species because, as a large predator, coyotes control smaller predators such as raccoons, foxes and feral cats that prey on native small mammals and birds.

 

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Felis rufus

Bobcat

Felis rufus is an elusive hunter that frequents the Smith Preserve. These cats stalk small mammals and birds, mostly at night. Although they sometimes howl and scream, most of the time, they are silent. Although observed during the day by several people, the cats have been photographed only at night with remote cameras.

Tracks and scat are often seen in the scrub. Shown at left, the tracks are about 5 cm wide, twice the width of Felix catus (Domestic Cat).

Scat typically contains fur as shown at left, or as shown below: feathers, small bones, and claws. Bobcats mark their territory with scat, scent posts and scratching trees.

The two photographs below are enlargements of this photograph. Note the feathers, bones, and claw.

Felis rufus adults are 51 cm tall and 84 cm long. The tail is only 10 cm. It is this short (bobbed) tail that gives it its common name, "bobcat." Bobcats have an orange-brown summer coat and a paler gray winter coat. These colors act as camouflage. In addition to the overall coat colors, they have black spots and bars on their legs and rear. A bobcat's face is flat and wide with black lines radiating into the facial ruff. Its ears are short and tufted.

Bobcats breed in May and typically have 2 kittens.

Remote camera photographs: Courtesy of Ian Bartoszek, Conservancy of Southwest Florida biologist.

 

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Procyon lotor

Common Raccoon

An adult Procyon lotor is 81 cm long with a thick coat of fur. Most of the body is covered with long, thick grizzled grayish-brown hair. It has a very distinctive black mask below a white eyebrow. Its muzzle is narrow with white sides. Its tail is 23 cm long and ringed.

A raccoon can walk, run up to 15 mph, and swim. It uses its flexible toes to clean its food and climb trees.

It is an omnivore with a diet that includes: fish, frogs, crayfish, insects, mollusks, eggs, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, fruits, berries, nuts, grains, and carrion. One of the greatest threats to the tortoise population in the preserve is raccoons because young tortoises can be easily removed from their shallow burrows.

Raccoons usually breed in April and have four offspring.

During the day, there have been no sightings of raccoons by this photographer. However, these animals regularly visit, leaving behind tracks and scat. Procyon lotor is primarily a nocturnal animal and remote cameras have captured images.

The raccoon skull above shows its distinctive rounded form and the mix of canine and flattened molar teeth.

As shown at left, scat found in the Preserve often contains seeds from fruiting trees. It should be noted that raccoon scat is potentially harmful to humans because it may contain microscopic roundworm eggs of Baylisascaris procyonis. If these roundworm eggs are accidently ingested, larvae may hatch from the eggs and migrate to a person's brain, liver, and/or eye.

 

The photograph at left was taken by one of the remote cameras. Courtesy of Ian Bartoszek, Conservancy of Southwest Florida biologist.

 

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Order Cingulata

Dasypus novemcinctus

Nine-Banded Armadillo

There are 20 armadillo species in Central and South America and Florida's fossil record indicates several armadillo species living here before becoming extinct 10,000 years ago. However, today, there is only one species in the United States. This is the nine-banded armadillo, a migrant to Florida from Texas about 1850.

As shown in this photograph, taken with a remote camera, the nine-banded armadillo is aptly named, with its bands of stiff bony plates covered with thin scales. Its other characteristics include a long, thin, ringed tail with scales, a shielded head, hair, and peg-like teeth. Its ventral surface is unprotected by any kind of armor. When frightened, an armadillo will roll into a ball to protect its unarmored parts.

Remote camera photograph: Courtesy of Ian Bartoszek, Conservancy of Southwest Florida biologist.

Dasypus novemcinctus usually stays in an underground burrow during the day and comes out at night to forage. It eats a wide variety of organisms including insects, sand skinks, worm lizards, amphibians, bird and reptile eggs, and plants. Its favorite food is insects. On average an armadillo eats 91 kg (200 pounds) of insects each year. Armadillos have poor eyesight but a very keen sense of smell and can detect insects up to 15 cm under ground. Once detected, they use their strong legs and claws to tear up the soil and their long tongues to lap up prey.

Armadillos interact with the other organisms in the Smith Preserve by limiting prey populations, providing food for predators (Canis familiaris- domestic dogs, Canis latrans- coyote, and Lynx rufus-bobcat), aerating soil, creating burrow habitat for other animals, and providing food for scavengers.

 

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Order Didelphimorphia

Didelphis virginana

Virginia Opossum

Didelphis virginana is a nocturnal animal and has been photographed in the Smith Preserve with remote cameras. This mammal's presence is also known by its many footprints. Above are two photographs showing the same set of overlapping prints found in scrub sand. The prints in these photographs are of its left hind and left front paws. The tracks can be identified by their shape and the directions the thumbs point. The hind foot track shows a very clear impression of its opposable thumb. Opossums use their opposable thumbs to climb.

An adult opossum is 81 cm long and 38 cm tall with a grizzled gray back; pointed head; white face; pink nose; long whiskers; and a naked, prehensile tail. It uses its tail for grasping trees while climbing. The tail also acts as an extra fat reserve. Opossums have more teeth (50) than any other North American mammal. Opossums are omnivores, consuming bird eggs, fruits, nuts, young rabbits, insects, and even carrion.

Remote camera photographs: Courtesy of Ian Bartoszek, Conservancy of Southwest Florida biologist.

 

They are the only marsupials (pouch-bearing mammals) native to North American. Mother opossums give birth to many offspring at a time. Each baby is the size of a pea. The entire litter would fit into a teaspoon. After birth, each baby climbs into the mother's pouch to find a teat. Many young do not survive. Those that do, remain inside the pouch for two to four months.

When attacked, opossums play dead, climb a tree, or hiss and show their sharp teeth.

 

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Order Insectivora

Scalopus aquaticus

Eastern Mole

 

Scalopus aquaticus is a common medium-sized grayish-brown mole. Eastern moles grow more than 200 mm in length, have slightly webbed toes, and their tails and snouts lack fur. Their eyes are tiny and covered by skin . They have poor eyesight and can probably detect only light and dark. Moles are rarely seen because they are most active at dawn and dusk and spend most of the time underground.

 

 

These photographs show an eastern mole that was found dead in the Smith Preserve. This specimen was quite unusual with a very distinctive triangular cream-colored stripe running from the top of its head to its nose. This mole weighed 24 grams, and was 105 mm from its nose to its tail. It is unknown whether this characteristic was unique to this individual or common to the population of moles living in the Smith Preserve.

Mole tunnels are common throughout the Smith Preserve. One such tunnel is shown in the photograph at left. During tunneling, moles mix and aerate the soil and eat insects and vegetable matter. The disturbed soil structure allows moisture to penetrate deeper into soil layers.

The eastern mole harbors many parasites including fleas, lice, beetles, and mites. Mole predators include Canis familiaris (domestic dog), Vulpes and Urocyon spp. (foxes) , Canis latrans (coyote), Lynx rufus (bobcat), and Felis cattus (domestic cat). The cause of death of this mole is unknown.

As the above photographs indicate, a carcass doesn't remain very long in the Smith Preserve. Ants quickly began scavenging this individual.

 

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Order Lagomorpha

Sylvilagus floridanus

Eastern Cottontail

Sylvilagus floridanus is a member of Family Leporidae and it's one of the most common North American rabbit species. At 43 cm long with a tail 3.8 cm long, this species has grayish brown fur with some black hairs. The belly is white, its eye ring is white, and the underside portion of the tail is white. As can be seen in the photographs above, the back of the neck is a rusty color. The ears are 6.4 cm long and the upper edges are striped with black. When the rabbit jumps away, as seen in the second photograph, the fluffy tail is raised, displaying the "cottontail."

Cottontails are most often seen at dusk and dawn when they are foraging for food. The photographs below show two images taken with remote cameras. Photographs: Courtesy of Ian Bartoszek, Conservancy of Southwest Florida biologist.

During most of the day, cottontails hide in the cover of Serenoa repens (saw-palmetto). They don't dig burrows. Instead, they scratch out a depression to make a nest lined with grass and fur. After breeding, the female gives birth to four or five blind offspring (kits), each with a very fine coat of hair. In Florida, cottontails can have up to seven litters each year.

Cottontails consume twigs, leaves, grasses, fruits, flowers, and plant seeds. As shown above, scat consists of piles of dark brown, pea-size pellets. These rabbits produce two types of fecal pellets, one they eat. The re-digestion of these pellets is thought to greatly increase the nutritional value of the food.

When chased, cottontails can reach speeds of 29 km/h (18 mph). Their predators include Canis familiaris (domestic dog), Vulpes and Urocyon spp. (foxes) , Canis latrans (coyote), Lynx rufus (bobcat), Felis cattus (domestic cat), Procyon lotor (raccoon), Bubo virginianus (great horned owl), Strix varia (barred owl), Buteo spp. (hawks), and snakes.

As shown below, a rabbit was found dead in the Preserve. There was no apparent cause of death. Ants covered its eyes and appeared to be obtaining moisture. Within a few days, the entire carcass had been removed, probably by a large scavenger.

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Order Rodentia

Sciurus carolinensis

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Sciurus carolinensis is 48 cm long with a long, bushy, grizzled black and white tail (23 cm). It has a round head and buff colored eye rings and snout edges. The coat changes color seasonally. In summer, the squirrel is gray with a tawny brown head, legs, and sides. It is white below. In the winter, it is gray above and white below.

Eastern gray squirrels prefer habitats in mature woodlands. One would expect to find them living in the hammock and pine flatwoods of the Smith Preserve. They communicate with one another with clucking calls, tail flicking, and posturing. The two photographs below were taken as two individuals chased one other around a large Quercus virginiana (Virginia Oak).

Sciurus carolinensis breed with two litters each year, one in the spring and the other in the summer. Each litter has two to three young. In the winter, they build spherical leaf nests in trees. In the summer, they build stick platforms in trees.

An Eastern Gray Squirrel's diet consists of nuts (primarily acorns), buds and flowers, fungus, catkins and seeds of pines, insects, bird eggs, nestlings, and frogs. They bury their food in caches and relocate the cashes using memory and smell.

Within the Smith Preserve, the squirrels interact with many other organisms. They help disperse tree seeds; are hosts of ticks, fleas, lice, and roundworms; and are prey for Vulpes and Urocyon spp. (foxes), Canis latrans (coyote), Lynx rufus (bobcat), and Buteo spp. (hawks).

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Sciurus niger avicennia

Big Cypress Fox Squirrel

On November 3, 2015, in the parking lot adjacent to the Christopher B. Smith Preserve, Amber Crooks, The Conservancy of Southwest Florida's Senior Natural Resource Specialist, spotted and photographed the Big Cypress fox squirrel shown here.

Members of this subspecies of genus Sciurus are large, reaching lengths of up to 69 centimeters and weighing up to 1.4 kilograms. The back and head are black, sides and belly are buff colored, and the ears and nose are white. As can be seen in these photographs, the tail is long and bushy.

Both males and females mate with more than one individual and breeding can occur any time of year. Gestation time averages 44 days with a litter size of one to three babies.

Big Cypress fox squirrels are primarily a ground-dwelling species, feeding on seeds, nuts, buds, and fruits from plants, as well as fungi and occasionally insects and bird eggs. The squirrel has a very limited range and individuals are usually secretive.

The squirrel's habitat includes cypress stands, slash pine areas, mangrove swamps, tropical hardwood forests, live oak woods, and some suburban habitats. The squirrel's existence is threatened by destruction and fragmentation of these habitats. It is a state-designated threatened species and is protected by Florida's Endangered and Threatened Species Rule.

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© Photographs and text by Susan Leach Snyder (Conservancy of Southwest Florida Volunteer), unless otherwise credited above.

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