The “Critters” of Sawgrass Recreational Park

Like most of the attractions I’ve come across in Florida the animals of Sawgrass Recreational Park are all rescues. If they had been left in the wild they would not survive and although they have now healed from their injuries, something prevents them from being released again. It could be that they are now disabled but it could also be that they have become accustomed to people. This loss of fear can put both the animal and the people who cross their path at risk so they live out their lives in captivity.

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Of course there was the reptile section. There were snakes and lizards including a black and white tegue, an invasive species in south Florida. They had alligators and crocodiles.  You could hold baby alligators and have a picture taken. One of the most interesting moments in this section was when a visitor standing by an alligator pit started humming. The large alligator inside raised itself up on its legs and began to respond to the humming by growling back. This back and forth went on for about 10 minutes. The gator was clearly responding to the visitor.

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I moved on to the mammal section. There were quite a few empty cages here. Maybe the animals were in their shelters to avoid the heat. I saw some skunks and moved on. Then I spotted the big cats. There was a bobcat but the Florida Panther was magnificent.

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Florida Panthers are endangered so to see one even in captivity was pretty special. This one was very active. One of the volunteers was playing  a game of tug of war with him with a rope toy. That cat was not going to give up.

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If the cage had not been labeled or the volunteer been there to tell us about this guy I might have mistaken it for a mountain lion. The tan coloring and facial features just brought that breed of wild cat to mind.

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In the cage next door were two black leopards. I made the stupid mistake of calling them black panthers..OOPS!, I was very quickly corrected. Although these cats look black when the light hits them just right you can see the leopard spots.

In a tiny little cage was the cutest little animal.

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It had huge ears but looked like a little dog, This animal isn’t native to Florida. It was a Fennec Fox which is native to the Sahara Desert in Northern Africa. This little guy was quite territorial, guarding its little cage by jumping up the wire sides when anyone came too close.

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They had a raptor section too. These winged predators had broken wings and broken beaks. So sad that they will never be able to fly free again.

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One of the keepers had his dog with him. What a beautiful animal! He had the most unusual eyes. They were 2 different colors.

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I spent quite a bit of time here chatting with the keepers and volunteers. I could see myself working someplace like that with animals too.

Heading back to the parking lot I spotted another one of those red, blue and black/brown birds.

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As another day began to wind down I put this one solidly in the win column.

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But tomorrow I will finally get to Everglades National Park. I am soooo excited!

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