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These threatened and endangered species call Central Florida home

Here's how you can help organizations that protect imperiled local wildlife

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ORLANDO, Fla. – Almost all of the species listed as "imperiled" on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's website share a common factor -- loss of habitat. Whether the habitat loss is due to destruction from human activities or by global climate change, over 57 species are considered "imperiled" by the FWC, many of which live primarily in Central Florida.

An "imperiled" species is defined as any species that faces a threat to its long-term to its survival that Florida is in danger of losing.

The FWC lists guidelines, established in 2010, for conservation and continuing protection of these imperiled species. Known as the Imperiled Species Management Plan, the guidelines outline exactly how the FWC and local agencies can work together to protect Florida wildlife.

"The approach is two‐fold: use integrated strategies to benefit multiple species and simultaneously address individual species’ needs," the ISMP website states.

According to the website, the guidelines are working.

"The ISMP has benefitted greatly through wide‐ranging partner engagement that has further galvanized broad community ownership and support for long‐term wildlife conservation efforts," the website states.

The entire ISMP will be up for significant review and revision and review in 2020, once the 10-year plan expires.

Until then, the guidelines set ambitious goals for the future of Florida's wildlife.

"Achieve a Florida where no native species goes extinct due to human action or inaction; species declines are halted or reversed; species conservation is coordinated among partners; biodiversity is maintained; adequate funding is available for species conservation; and the importance of species conservation is fully supported by the public."

While Central Florida is not home to any imperiled amphibian or invertebrate species, many can be found throughout the Panhandle and South Florida, especially in the Florida Keys. Imperiled mammals, birds, reptiles and fish can be found throughout Central Florida, however, as well as local conservation agencies.

Below, find a list of all imperiled species in the area, with information from the FWC. At the bottom of each list, you'll find local organizations that protect the wildlife to which you can donate.
Birds

The Audubons Crested Caracara. Courtesy: FWC
The Audubons Crested Caracara. Courtesy: FWC

Threatened

American oystercatcher: Haematopus palliates - Beaches in Volusia and Brevard counties.

Audubon crested caracara Polyborus plancus audubonii - Prairies with cabbage palms, wooded areas with saw palmetto, cypress and scrub oaks in Osceola and Brevard counties.

Black skimmer: Rynchops niger  - Osceola, Polk, Brevard and Volusia counties, primarily in coastal areas.

Burrowing owl: Athene cunicularia - Open prairies, like golf courses, airports, pastures and fields in Orange, Brevard, Marion, Lake, Polk, Sumter and Osceola counties.

Florida sandhill crane: Grus canadensis pratensis - Freshwater marshes, prairies and pastures in all Central Florida Counties.

Florida scrub jay: Aphelocoma coerulescens - Sandy areas in all Central Florida counties.

Least tern: Sternula antillarum  - Volusia, Brevard and Polk counties, primarily in coastal areas.

Little blue heron: Egretta caerulea  - Swamps, estuaries, ponds, lakes, and rivers in all Central Florida counties.

Reddish egret: Egretta rufescens  - Coastal areas in Brevard County.

Roseate spoonbill: Platalea ajaja - Mangrove islands in Brevard County.

Southeastern American kestrel: Falco sparverius paulus  - Woodlands, sandhill and savannah pine areas in the wild and pastures and open fields in residential areas in Orange, Lake, Marion Sumter and Polk counties.

Tricolored heron: Egretta tricolor - Fresh and saltwater areas in all Central Florida counties.

Wood stork: Mycteria americana - Wetland areas in all Central Florida counties.

Whooping crane. Courtesy: FWC
Whooping crane. Courtesy: FWC

Endangered

Everglade snail kite: Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus - Shallow freshwater areas in Orange, Brevard, Lake, Polk, Sumter and Osceola counties.

Florida grasshopper sparrow: Ammodramus savannarum floridanus  - Dry open prairies in Polk and Osceola counties.

Ivory billed woodpecker: Campephilus principalis  - Known to be seen in cypress swamps and mature bottomland forest in Orange, Brevard, Marion, Lake, Polk, Sumter, Seminole, Flagler and Volusia counties. There have been no confirmed sightings since 1994.

Red-cockaded woodpecker: Picoides borealis - Pine trees in Polk, Osceola and Orange counties.

Whooping crane: Grus americana - Shallow marshes and open grasslands in Osceola and Polk counties.

How you can help

Many of the birds can be seen at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Admission to the park is $10 per car, per day. The refuge also accepts volunteers.

The Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland houses many of the imperiled birds and is open to the public. The center accepts donations and volunteers.

FishThreatened

Bluenose shiner: Pteronotropis welaka - St. John's River.

Southern tessellated darter: Etheostoma olmstedi maculaticeps - St. Johns River.

Atlantic sturgeon. Courtesy: FWC
Atlantic sturgeon. Courtesy: FWC

Endangered

Atlantic Sturgeon: Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus - St. John's River.

Shortnose sturgeon: Acipenser brevirostrum - St. Johns River.

How you can help

While there are no local fish conservatories, many counties have fishing regulations in place that aim to protect imperiled species. Check your local area's guidelines for specifics.

Mammals

Sherman's fox squirrel. Courtesy: FWC
Sherman's fox squirrel. Courtesy: FWC

Species of special concern

Homosassa Shrew: Sorex longirostris - Wide variety of areas in all Central Florida counties.

Shermans Fox Squirrel: Sciurus niger shermani - Wooded areas in all Central Florida counties.

West Indian manatee. Courtesy: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Comission
West Indian manatee. Courtesy: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Comission

Threatened

Southeastern Beach Mouse: Peromyscus polionotus niveiventris  - Beaches in Volusia and Brevard counties.

West Indian manatee: Trichechus manatus  - All coastal areas in Central Florida, with areas designated as "critical habitat" in Volusia County and the St. Johns River.

Florida panther. Courtesy: FWC
Florida panther. Courtesy: FWC

Endangered

Florida Panther: Puma concolor coryi - More commonly found in South Florida, but some males have been documented traveling into Central Florida for food.

How you can help

Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge in Bithlo houses many imperiled mammalian species. The accept visitors, volunteers and donations.

The Manatee Observation and Education Center in Fort Pierce allows visitors to see the gentle giants up close. They accept donations and volunteers.

ReptilesThreatened

American Alligator: Alligator mississippiensis - Freshwater areas in all Central Florida counties. 

Atlantic salt marsh snake: Nerodia clarkii taeniata - Grassy saltwater areas and black mangroves in Volusia County.

Bluetail mole skink: Eumeces egregius lividus - Areas with loose sand in Polk and Osceola counties.

Eastern indigo snake: Drymarchon corais couperi - Forests and swampy areas in all Central Florida counties.

Florida pine snake: Pituophis melanoleucus mugitus - Areas with sandy soil in Seminole, Orange, Volusia, Brevard, Polk, Flagler, Sumter, Lake and Marion counties.

Gopher tortoise: Gopherus polyphemus - While they prefer high and dry sandy habitats, gopher tortoises can be found in a variety of areas in all Central Florida counties.

Loggerhead sea turtle: Caretta caretta - Nesting areas along Central Florida coastlines.

Sand skink: Neoseps reynoldsi - Scrubby areas in Osceola, Polk, Lake, Orange and Marion counties.

Short-tailed snake: Lampropeltis extenuate - Sandy or scrubby areas in all Central Florida counties.

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Endangered

Green sea turtle: Chelonia mydas - Nesting areas along Central Florida coastlines.

Hawksbill sea turtle: Eretmochelys imbricate - One nesting area on the southeastern coast of Volusia County.

Kemps ridley sea turtle: Lepidochelys kempii - One nesting area on the northeastern coast of Volusia County.

Leatherback sea turtle: Dermochelys coriacea - Nesting areas along Central Florida coastlines.

How you can help

The Barrier Island Education Center in Brevard County is home one of the largest nesting areas for sea turtles. The center accepts donations and volunteers.

Gopher tortoises and many other species make their home in the Enchanted Forest Sanctuary in Titusville. The sanctuary accepts donations and volunteers.