MAMMALS OF LAKE WOODRUFF NWR

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Observing and photographing mammals, other than casually, has never been one of my priorities, so the following list is cursory, and covers mainly those species with which I have had some experience at Woodruff.  Most of the rodents that can be abundant in marsh and woodland habitats are omitted.    The species below are presented roughly in order of the frequency with which I encounter them.

      Marsh Rabbits are common along the edges of marshes.  They are abundant along the dikes, especially in areas where there is dense cover nearby.  They often come out onto the sides of the dikes in late afternoon, especially on the south and east sides of the dike surrounding Pool 1.  They can sometimes be approached quite closely if you move slowly.
         Gray Squirrels are common in all wooded habitats.  Fox squirrels have been seen on a couple of occasions, but are not common.
       Nine-banded Armadillos are most frequently seen snuffling around in the leaf litter of the xeric or mesic hammocks, but will also forage along the edges of the dikes.  Their eyesight is terrible, but their hearing quite keen.  If you move slowly and quietly, you can often get very close to them.    They are easiest to locate in hammock habitats by listening for their rustling in the leaves - they can make quite a racket.
   Raccoons are common  in all habitats, but mostly nocturnal/crepuscular, so footprints are found much more frequently than the beasts themselves. 
Norway Rats aren't typically on most folks' must-see list, but one of the most reliable mammal photo ops can sometimes be found by lifting up and looking under the ramp to the Port-a-Potty in the parking lot.  Many times, a female Norway rat will have built a nest under it, and can often be seen scurrying away dragging her litter, attached to her nipples, with her.  That's a Southern Toad she's consorting with here.  Make sure there's no one using the facilities before you try this.
        Rarely seen, but always present, are Bobcats.  Their footprints and scat are commonly found on the dikes through the marsh habitats, and along the nature trails through hammocks.  I've only seen bobcats on a couple of occasions, however, and then only briefly as they beat a quick retreat.
   River Otters are regular visitors to all of the canals and impoundments.  They seem to hang out in one area for several days to weeks at a time, then move elsewhere.  When I see them (usually in pairs), I frequently see them in the same place on several consecutive visits, and then I won't see them, or sign of them, for months at a time.
        Virginia Opossums are abundant, but mainly nocturnal and not easily seen during the day.
                     From spring through fall, and even in mid-winter on warmer evenings, several species of bats can be observed foraging at dusk over the pools, impoundments, and around the parking lot.  Nine species can occur in this part of Florida, but identifying them in flight, at dusk, is liable to be problematic.  This Seminole Bat was found roosting in one of the hammocks.   I caught him, broke his wings and threw him in a canal, where he was promptly chomped by a GATOR.  Funny how nature imitates life, isn't it?  Seriously, I didn't have to break his wings; he was torpid.
   Whitetail Deer are present on the refuge, but rarely seen. They are hunted during primitive gun and archery season in the upland areas of the refuge, and on Tick and Dexter Islands, so that may have something to do with their wariness.   Tracks and scat can be found throughout the refuge, though I've only seen the animals on a couple of occasions.  This photograph was not taken on the refuge.
Feral Hogs (wild pigs) are also found on some parts of the refuge, but not typically in the public use areas.  That's quite fortunate, as a herd of hogs can be incredibly destructive to habitat with their incessant and powerful rooting in the soil and leaf litter.  The adults get very wary when hunted, as they are in most areas in Florida.  Piglets are a bit more trusting, and irresistibly adorable.

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