One of the first things people relocating to St. Johns, FL from other parts of the country ask me about is the kind of wildlife they can expect to encounter. Many have heard horror stories about humungous bugs, venomous snakes and aggressive alligators. Yes, those types of creatures do live in St. Johns, FL but not in the vast numbers that are rumored and lots of other less angst-inducing reptiles, birds and animals live or migrate here as well.
When our family first moved to Florida we were fascinated by the alligators that lived in the pond behind our home. Several of them were a constant presence and we enjoyed hearing their deep, primal bellowing and watching them bask in the sun. We knew to neither feed them nor walk our dog close to them and we lived quite peacefully near them for several months while waiting for our new home to be built. The home we built was on a nature preserve and several people cautioned us about the scary wildlife that lives in there and would soon be in our back yard. That just wasn’t the case for us. Have we seen snakes? Yes, but they have not bothered us nor have we bothered them. Insects? Sure, but nothing to worry about. Armadillos? Yes, but mostly belly-up and stiff on the side of the road. Wild boars? Not yet.
What have we seen in our yard?
Deer, including this beautiful piebald one that frequently stands at the edge of the woods looking into our yard. A rare genetic defet produces the piebald condition which gives the deer coloring similar to that of a brown and white pinto pony. The small one that graces our back yard is just beautiful!
Geckos, geckos, geckos! There is no avoiding these critters but no reason to avoid them anyway. They are frequently found on sidewalks, patios, the sides of houses, plants, bushes and everywhere in between. If you glimpse something moving quickly out of the corner of your eye it is likely a gecko. When threatened the gecko will throw off its tail to distract predators. That can be an unsettling sight at first – a gecko and a tail on the ground wiggling separately – but have no fear, the gecko will grow another tail.
Dolphins. These beautiful mammals can frequently be seen just off the shore of the miles of beautiful beaches in northeast Florida.
Birds. Many people flock to NE Florida for bird-watching. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist that bad pun!) The area is part of the 2,000 mile Great Florida Birding Trail and is home to hundreds of species of birds. A snowy owl was recently spotted here (far from its likely Canadian home) and every spring migratory red knots spend a few days in the area as they migrate from southern Argentina to Arctic Canada.
If you are relocating to St. Johns, FL, don’t let the animal stories you hear make you anxious. There is still room for us to co-exist and chances are the wildlife you encounter will do nothing more than capture your attention.