Wildlife Spotting Tips

Deer on Trail at Lake Louisa

With an abundance of animals both big and small, wildlife watching is one of the most exciting activities available at Florida State Parks.

Spotting wildlife can be tricky, especially if you’re just beginning to connect with the natural spaces throughout the state.

Whether hiking the trails or paddling down river, here are some tips to help you see more of Florida's amazing animals.

  1. Go at dusk or dawn: As summer gets closer and the temperatures rise, many animals will begin resting more during the day to avoid the harsh heat. Resting animals rarely wish to be seen and usually find shelter from the sun and predators rather than wait in the open. Getting up early or searching at dusk during the cooler hours of the day can be a good way to spot wildlife while they’re active.
  2. Bring binoculars: Nothing is more frustrating than seeing an animal from afar but not being able to make out enough details to tell what it is. Having binoculars on hand while out wildlife watching ensures that you’ll always be able to get a good look at the animals you spot, whether they’re well off the trail or high in the air.
  3. Bring a field guide: From imposing black bears to delicate butterflies, there are a vast array of different species that inhabit our parks. It can be difficult to tell species apart, especially when their size and coloration are similar. Field guides are excellent resources to help you figure out exactly what you’re looking at or which animals you may want to try to spot next.
Two people look for clues about spotting wildlife.
A panther track in the dirt.

Panther tracks

4. Learn to look for clues: Often you can get a good feel for which animals are in the area simply by looking for signs of their activity. Tracks left along trails are some of the simplest ways to tell which animals have wandered by recently, but subtler hints like fallen feathers, bird nests and discarded bones can be just as useful in identifying what lives in the area. And of course, there’s always scat to tell you what they’ve been eating.

5. Stay quiet: Our state parks believe in keeping wildlife wild, which means most of the animals you’ll come across aren’t used to seeing people. Loud noises will scare even the toughest looking animals away, so staying quiet on the trail is essential for wildlife watching. Keeping your voice low while talking and moving quietly through the bush are two great ways to improve your wildlife trek.

6. Observe from a distance: While it can be tempting to try to get closer for a better view, the closer to an animal you are the more likely they are to run. Just like us, animals need their space, and when we encroach on that space, they may even attack out of fear. For all our well-being, make sure to keep a respectful distance.

A doe and fawn are spotted in a field of wildflowers at Myakka River State Park.

This article was published in the Real Florida ℠ Connection, the Florida State Parks e-newsletter. Sign up to get updates and stories from your state parks the first week of every month.