UCF campus wildlife

 College life at UCF wouldn’t be the same without them.

“We bought the land to build a university, not a nature preserve,” UCF biology Professor Emeritus Jack Stout says, as he stands before a 4-by-4-foot aerial map of the campus, studying it intently. “But it turned out to be both.”

Hurriedly crossing from asphalt parking lot to glass and concrete buildings, busy students, faculty, staff and visitors aren’t the only beings who call this campus home. Despite the fact that these 1,415 acres are intended to create an ideal environment for higher education, they also happen to provide an ideal environment for a wide array of reptiles, amphibians, mammals and birds, as well as varied plant life. 

Preservation and the Master Plan

Dr. Stout points to an area in the northwest corner. “Lake Claire,” he says, “is actually two sinkholes that coalesced. It’s home to bass, bluegill, gar, soft-shell turtles and the occasional alligator.”

Gray squirrels, raccoons, sandhill cranes and the North American river otter also call UCF home, as do creepy creatures like the evening bat, striped newt and the two-toed amphiuma, a snakelike salamander that grows up to 4 feet in length and has four vestigial legs, each with two useless toes.

A number of threatened or protected species also make their homes on the UCF campus, including the sand skink and the gopher tortoise. The master plan for the university specifically designates some areas as preserves, resulting in significant areas of the campus remaining untouched. These areas, Stout points out, offer “excellent examples of traditional Central Florida ecosystems.”

“The sand pine scrub in the northwest corner of the campus is one of the oldest and most endangered habitats in the state,” he says. This area is home to such wildlife as the Florida mouse, scrub lizard and gray fox. And eagle-eyed visitors can commonly spot an array of birds, from the red-bellied woodpecker to the red-shouldered hawk, in the treetops.

Gone but not Forgotten

While it has been years since wild hogs were spotted on campus, this land was home to them at one time too. The Florida scrub jay has also left UCF. “They are gone,” Stout says. “They moved out of Orange and Seminole counties.”

Another former campus resident is the indigo snake, a “huge but gentle” species which preys on other snakes and helps control the population of more dangerous species, including the eastern diamondback rattlesnake. Their loss, Stout says, “is a real shame.”

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