Endangered species in the Florida Keys and Key West
In addition to commercially important species, mangroves also support a number of threatened and
Threatened species include:
· American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
· Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas)
· Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta)
Endangered species include:
· American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus)
· Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
· Atlantic ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii)
· Eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais)
· Atlantic saltmarsh snake (Nerodia clarkii taeniata)
· Southern bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus leucocephalus)
· Peregrine falcon (Falco columbarius)
· Brown pelican (Pelicanus occidentalis)
· Barbados yellow warbler ( Dendroica petechia petechia)
· Key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium)
· West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus)
These species utilize mangrove systems during at least some portion of their life histories, while others reside
their entire life spans, feeding and nesting within the mangroves.
"Endangered" species are in danger of becoming extinct throughout all or the majority of its range while a
"threatened" species is one that is likely to become endangered in the near future. Each species must be listed
on the Federal list of endangered and threatened species before it can receive protection under the
Endangered Species Act. The ESA was enacted in 1973 to conserve and set up recovery plans for listed
species and associated habitats.
Numerous threatened and endangered species depend upon the habitats of the Florida Keys.
Currently ranging from Biscayne National Park to Key Largo and Lower Matecumbe Key, the Schaus Swallowtail
Butterfly is dwindling with populations numbering less than 1,000 individuals. The primary reason for decline is
loss of habitat, use of insecticides, collection of the larvae, and extreme weather conditions. Recovery efforts for
this endangered species includes captive breeding programs to help restore the population.
Information about the Florida Keys and Key West
Habitat use by the endangered key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium) includes pinelands, hardwood
hammocks, and mangrove swamps. Pinelands, hardwood hammocks and other upland dry areas are utilized for
feeding activities while mangrove swamps are used for shelter from the heat during the day. Two-thirds of the key
deer population inhabits Big Pine Key and No Name Key. The remaining deer reside in the following keys: Lower
Keys: Big Pine, Big Torch, Cudjoe, Howe, Little Pine, Little Torch, Middle Torch, Sugarloaf, and Summerland.
Keys located further south lack a permanent supply of freshwater required by key deer for survival. The current key
deer population is estimated at around 300, up from the 1955 estimate of 25-80.
Lower Keys Marsh Rabbit
The lower keys marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris hefneri) lives in coastal prairies and freshwater marshes of the
lower Keys. These habitats are rapidly disappearing due to development in the lower keys, placing this
endangered species under the threat of extinction.
Key Largo Woodrat and Key Largo Cotton Mouse
Tropical hardwood hammocks provide critical habitat for the Key Largo woodrat (Neotoma floridana smalli) and
the Key Largo cotton mouse (Peromyscus gossypinus allapaticola). Both species originally ranged throughout
Key Largo, however as a result of habitat destruction they are currently limited to the northern third of the island
and listed as endangered species. The endangered Schaus swallowtail butterfly (Papilio aristodemus
ponceanus) is also dependent upon hardwood hammocks. This species is on the decline due to habitat
destruction as well as insecticide use and extreme weather conditions.
Marine and estuarine habitats surrounding the Keys provide habitat for threatened and endangered species. The
Florida population of green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) has been considered endangered since 1978. The
declining population has been victim to commercial harvesting for eggs and food as well as incidental by-catch in
the shrimp fishery. Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), Atlantic Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii),
and leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) are all listed as endangered species while the loggerhead
sea turtle (Caretta caretta) is considered threatened under the protection of the ESA. Recovery plans have been
established for all listed sea turtle species. The manatee (Trichechus manatus) is another endangered aquatic
animal observed from time to time in the waters surrounding the Keys.
American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is protected due to its similarity in appearance to the threatened
American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus).In Florida, alligators are widespread and are residents of Biscayne
National Park in the Keys.
Other Threatened and Endangered Species
There are many other threatened and endangered species in the Florida Keys including the Stock Island tree
snail (Orthalicus rees), southern bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), and roseate tern (Sterna dougalli). For
more information on threatened and endangered species, visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission's List of
Florida's Endangered and Threatened Species and Species of Special Concern.