The Florida Box Turtle, Terrapene carolina, is a 5-6 inch land turtle with a dome-like shell with variable coloration and pattern. Upper and lower shells may be patterned yellow, orange, or greenish on black or brown. A wide hinge across the plastron (lower shell) and moveable lobes front and back provide a close fit between the top and bottom, forming a box. With this armor, the box turtle is well adapted to life on the land. On a hot day, the box turtle will burrow under logs or decaying vegatation to escape the heat. It may also be seen soaking in water or mud, and rain showers often bring it out of hiding. Its diet includes slugs earthworms, berries, and mushrooms. In Rookery Bay Reserve, it inhabits the scrub, pineland and hardwood hamock areas.
The Mangrove Water Snake, Nerodia fasciata compressicaudia, is a small, non-venomous water snake. It is variable in color and may be brown, gray, dull yellow, orange-red or greenish, with faint dark markings or crossbands. Stripes may appear on its cheek. The Mangrove Water snake occurs in salt and brackish water, in mangrove swamps, marshes, and canals. It feeds on frogs, tadpoles and fish.
The adult yellow rat snake is golden-yellow in color with 4 brown, lateral stripes. Its belly is pale yellow. It is an arboreal snake, and the edges of its belly plates are square to help it climb trees. This snake feeds on birds and their eggs and small rodents. It is a constrictor, meaning it squeezes its prey before consumption. The yellow rat snake and a related species, the red rat snake (Elaphe guttata guttata), can be found in upland habitats throughout the Reserve.
A familiar south Florida reptile, the adult Alligator (Alligator mississipiensis) is black and has a broad, rounded snout. A juvenile is about inches at birth and has bold yellowish crossbands on its dark body. Protection of this species has increased its population after decades of over hunting. A limited hunting season has been reintroduced in Florida. The Alligator is seen in the brackish water in Henderson Creek and in fresh water along Shell Island Road. It is more common in the summer when water salinity is lower. Adult alligators eat fish, snakes, turtles, small mammals, and birds. Learn more.
The Florida softshell turtle (Apalone ferox) reaches 18" in length. Its soft, leathery shell is brown or grayish green with dark spots. Living primarily in lakes, ponds and roadside canals, this turtle is a powerful swimmer and can also move quickly on land. The softshell's diet consists of snails, frogs and fish. Softshells, as with other turtles, are commonly seen trying to cross busy streets. If you try to rescue one, be advised that they have a long neck and a sharp bite.
The largest nonvenomous snake within the Reserve, the Eastern indigo (Drymarchon corais couperi) has a shiny blueblack body with a rust-colored chin and throat. It feeds on reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, and birds. Despite its size, it is not a constrictor, and often swallows its prey live. This species prefers a dry environment, and most often inhabits scrub and pine flatwood habitats.
Bright green in color, the green tree frog (Hyla cinerea) has white stripes on either side of its body and small yellow spots on its back. The green tree frog usually calls during damp or humid weather with a continuous, nasal, "gronk, gronk, gronk." During the day, it rests with its head flattened and legs gathered against broad-leafed vegetation. The green tree frog is found throughout the Reserve and is more readily seen during summer months due to increased rains.
The green anole (Anolis carolinensis) is a slender, lizard-like animal with large toe pads, long wedge-shaped snout, whiplike tail and expandable throat fan or dewlap. This dewlap flares red and is displayed by the male during courtship or while defending its territory. The green anole is usually green, but can quickly change color to light brown. It feeds on flies, beetles, moths, and spiders, which it will stalk. The nonnative, invasive Cuban brown anole feeds on and displaces the native green anole in its habitat. The green anole can be seen around the Shell Island Road field station.