Florida Wildlife on the Golf Course
Fawn on the Golf Course
Animals I See While Golfing in Central Florida
Sometimes I don't know if I'm going golfing or on a wildlife safari. I always tuck my camera into the golf cart storage compartment and add an extra set of batteries. Living south of Orlando, in Central Florida, we never know what we'll see on the golf course that day. Recently we saw baby alligators with their mother.
Of course, I can't stop in mid-swing to snap photos, so it's hit-or-miss to capture the wildlife on my camera. In this page, I'll share with you my wildlife photos taken on the golf course in Poinciana, Florida.
Large areas of the retirement community called Solivita are set aside in a natural state. This preserve area provides plenty of shelter for Solivita’s wildlife. Besides a large variety of birds, residents have the opportunity to see deer, raccoons, armadillos, otter, and several types of large cats. Except for the armadillos, these animals are native to Florida and even with new housing coming in all the time, most of the wildlife is holding its own.
Good Birdwatching Day on the Golf Course
March 31, 2010
As we teed off on the first hole, we heard the flap of wings overhead. Looking up, we saw a bald eagle flying over us. He was magnificent.
On Another Occasion, I Photographed the Eagle by the Lake
Later in the Round, We Saw a Swallowtail Kite
My husband has better eyesight than I do, so he saw the pileated woodpecker first. I keep a small pair of binoculars in the golf cart, so I got a look before we had to move on.
Here's a photo that I took of one on April 24, 2013. He was so busy tapping on the tree that I was able to get quite close.
This one makes me think of the cartoon character, Woody Woodpecker.
The Pileated Woodpecker
Carry Small Binoculars with You on the Golf Course
Sandhill Cranes and Their Baby - on the golf course in Central Florida
We see these regularly on our golf course. One time as I was teeing off, a crane came up and tried to pick up the ball with its beak. Maybe it thought it was an egg or it was just curious. When they come around with the baby, all the golfers are careful not to hit it.
Cranes have a very loud call, and it can be quite distracting when you are trying to swing. As you can see, they like to peck at the ground for grubs to eat. It can make a mess of the fairway or a tee box area.
Wild Boar in Florida
Supposedly these are descended from pigs brought to the new world by the Spanish in the 1500s. We've seen the baby pigs on the golf course. There are approximately 30 of these tearing up the course and yards nearby with their rooting and digging behavior. We know they are around, but we rarely see them.
A few months ago, we did see three of these in broad daylight as they ran across the golf course bridge by the 18th hole and darted into the woods. I had no chance to grab the camera. Darn it. They were a good size.
Finally got some photos (in January 2013) of some baby pigs before they took off for the safety of the palmetto.
Wild Baby Pigs - Photos by Virginia AllainClick thumbnail to view full-size
Warning - Pigs Can Be Dangerous
A few times, we've seen the piglets on the golf course. We stay well away from them as we don't want to upset Mama Pig is she is nearby. Fully grown, the pigs can be 300 to 350 pounds, so you must take them seriously and steer clear of any that you see.
The baby pigs are cute until you stop to think of what they grow up to be.
Video of Alligator and Some Feral Pigs
My Best Deer Photo on the Golf Course
Florida White Tailed Deer
We see these fairly often on the golf course, usually early in the morning or as it gets close to dusk. The largest group that I've seen at once was six deer in a group.
When we selected our lot in Solivita, I noticed deer tracks in the sandy soil. I figured we wouldn’t see much of the deer once the houses were built. Apparently the deer aren’t as shy as I thought. They enjoyed nibbling on the hibiscus bush outside our breakfast room. I never seemed to get up early enough to see them foraging, but we could tell from their tracks and from the condition of the bush that they had been there. Eventually the landscaper replaced the ravaged hibiscus with something the deer didn’t care to eat.
Most of our sightings of deer have been on the golf course. Several times we spotted does and fawns crossing the number 8 fairway on the Oaks Course. Once we saw a deer near the number 2 tee area on the Cypress Course, but they seemed to be more common on Oaks.
One time we pulled up to the tee box on the first hole of Oaks and five deer were browsing in the tall grasses next to it. I had my camera handy in the golf cart and pulled it out to capture six shots of the group and of individual deer. It amazes me still that they did not bolt when we arrived.
I found this video on You Tube so you can see them for yourself.
Photos I Took on Stonegate Golf Course - The Oaks - on hole #1Click thumbnail to view full-size
Watch for Deer on the Road Too
Another deer sighting happened on the main boulevard in our community. Several cars were stopped in the street and we wondered why as we pulled up behind them. Just then four deer ran across the roadway and into the trees on the other side. Let’s all remember to brake for wildlife when we’re driving.
Another Fawn That We Saw on the Golf Course
Comments from Friends And Neighbors on My Photos
Here are some of the comments from my friends and neighbors.
- John • Beautiful shots! I once saw a bobcat strolling along very close to one of the greens on the Oaks course. Of course, I was a little wary, but we both just minded our own business and went our separate ways. Amazing, though!
- Sunny D. • Have you seen the otters this season? They are plentiful. Wish I had a camera handy.
- Kathy G. • Solivita is nature’s playground!
- Karen V • I love your deer pictures. We see them a lot as we drive home at night to the not so populated area of Portofino. We have to turn on the bright lights to make sure they don’t cross over the road as we are driving. I just didn’t think they would be so bold as to come up by my front door to eat the hibiscus-they knew the minute the blossoms opened!
Our Friend, Herb, on the Golf Course with an Alligator Nearby
A Good-Sized Alligator (my photo)
My Photos of Alligators on the Golf Course - by Virginia AllainClick thumbnail to view full-size
Florida Alligator (a common sight on a golf course)
These we see every time we go out on the golf course. Sometimes it's just their eyes showing above the water and other times they are sunning themselves on the bank. The most I've seen at one time is three alligators. If you walk towards them, they splash into the water in a flash. If one doesn't move, then the golfer backs away and leaves the ball for the gator.
The rules of golf allow you to have a free drop if your ball is in a dangerous place (like next to an alligator).
Sign on the Golf Course Warning about Alligators
It can be difficult to see the alligator in the water! Be careful if you are looking for a golf ball that went into the lake. When they are on the bank, it is easier to spot them.
Look around whenever you approach a water area in Florida. Those two small bumps in the water might be the eyes of an alligator.
Recently, I was teeing off right next to a small lake. Just as I swung my golf club, I heard a sound like a lawnmower or a motorboat. It spoiled my swing. As I turned to see what was causing the noise, I spotted a large alligator in the water but close to shore.
He was raising his head and tail while making a growling noise. His mouth was open, showing all his teeth. I don't know if he was advertising for a girlfriend or warning us to back away. Not taking any chances, I retreated to the golf cart. My friend didn't even tee off. The situation was too threatening for us to chance that.
I wish I had a video of it, but we were too anxious to get out of range.
Alligator and Wood Stork
Bobcat in Florida
We saw one of these today while we were golfing (February 2, 2010). When it saw us, it ducked back into a stand of palmetto. Of course, there was no time for me to take a photo. I found this video on YouTube, so you can see what one is like.
Update (March 25, 2010) - We saw the bobcat again, but this time it was out in the open. Tufted ears and a turned up, short tail.
This time my husband saw the bobcat (May 20, 2012). It was only about 6 feet away from him as it emerged from the bushes. As soon as it saw him, it retreated into the thick cover.
A neighbor, John, told us, "I once saw a bobcat strolling along very close to one of the greens on the Oaks course. Of course, I was a little wary, but we both just minded our own business and went our separate ways. Amazing, though!"
The cat that you see above is a bobcat. The short tail and the pointed ears are quick identifiers to differentiate it from the Florida panther which has rounded ears and a long tail. Notice the brush off to the side. If it wants cover, the bobcat can dart into the brush in an instant. There's plenty for it to eat, with squirrels, rabbits, raccoons and small rodents available. I've seen the bobcats three times in the community. The first time, we were playing golf and then the other times we were driving around the community in our golf cart. I was never lucky enough to have my camera in hand and ready to use.
Bobcat in Central Florida
Video of a Florida Bobcat
River Otter in Florida
We've seen these several times in our area. The first time, one was crossing the fairway of the golf course. They are a pretty good size, so at first, you think it's a dog. Otters have a distinctive, undulating way of running where they hump up their backs. That makes it easy to identify one, even from a distance.
I don't have a very good photo, so here's a YouTube video so you can see the way it moves.
March 2012 - saw another otter swimming in a golf course pond. It emerged from the water, ran across the cart path and slipped into another pond.
Full-Grown Florida Panther
I've talked to three people in our community who've seen one of these themselves. They are normally further south in Florida, but several have been killed by cars on I-4 and the Florida Turnpike around Orlando, so it's obvious that they do come this far north.
The Florida panther is endangered and at one time they brought in some mountain lions from out west to expand the gene pool. When the count falls below a few hundred, like in Florida, it brings a risk of inbreeding and they are more likely to succumb to disease or a disaster.
I Haven't Seen the Florida Panther in the Wild
Florida Panther Kitten
One golfer told us they saw an adult panther and three cubs or kittens on their street early one morning. There's plenty of food and cover in the preserve areas on our golf course and in the community for these large animals.
I've only seen Florida panthers in zoo-like settings. The one above was relaxing at Gatorland and warming his tummy in the sun. He's obviously well-fed and I think there was an explanation for why this one was in captivity. It had been injured or something.
These are an endangered species, and some mountain lions from the western part of the U.S. have been released in Florida to strengthen the gene pool.
There is actually a family of Florida panthers in the preservation areas of the central Florida retirement community where I live. I've only seen bobcats here, but have talked first-hand to 4 people who've seen them at various times. One lady was walking her little dog at dusk when she realized a panther was following her. She hurried back to her house. Another one I talked to saw the panther come out of the brushy area near her home and go to the retention pond to drink. A third person told me about taking an early morning walk and seeing a panther with young cubs in the street. In an article on February 26, 2017 (Orlando Sentinel), it said the panther population in the state was rebounding. Currently, it is estimated at 230. It was just a few years ago that they feared they would go extinct. This is still a low number and some are killed trying to cross busy highways like I-4. There were 34 killed by cars last year.
I've heard the coyotes yipping and calling at dusk. Our neighbor saw them chasing a dear and fawn across the lake from his house. So far, I haven't seen the coyotes on the golf course.
We regularly see wild turkeys in groups as large as 8 or 10.
Coyotes are not native to Florida but have migrated in and adapted. We hear them regularly, even in the daytime howling when the nearby fire station sounds its siren. From the number of voices, I'm guessing there may be ten to twenty of them.
Update April 2011 - We saw a coyote next to a natural area on our golf course this week. It was sandy, reddish color and bigger than a fox. It had a bushy tail.
Coyote and Turkeys - Video
May 2012 - We saw an adult turkey near the 17th tee with several chicks with it.
Update April 2011 - Today we saw two tom turkeys (on hole number 2 of the Stonegate Oaks golf course). They were in full display, showing off for a single hen. She studiously ignored them and pecked at the ground. One tom started a small dance, hopping around from foot to foot. Then the other tom took up the dancing. While dancing, they did not have their tail feathers open in full display.
Three Tom Turkeys And a Hen
Armadillo in Florida
Like the coyote, armadillos are not native to Florida. These have emigrated from the west. We see them fairly regularly on the golf course.
Video of an Armadillo
I got quite close to one once as apparently they don't see too well. It was busy rummaging for grubs in the grass. Finally it must have smelled me as it looked around and then headed off.
Gopher Tortoise - on Florida Golf Courses
May 22, 2012 - Today for the first time in my 7 years in Florida, I saw a gopher tortoise on the golf course. It was quite large and was eating some green plant.
I'd heard about the large tortoises in Florida called gopher tortoises. It took several years of living in Central Florida before I saw one. The reptile was busy eating a salad, so it paid no attention to my excitement as I captured it with my Canon SX20is camera.
You'll notice how sandy the soil is in this area. That probably makes it easier for the gopher tortoise's armored front legs to dig the underground burrow that it lives in.
This is a far larger tortoise than the box turtles that we found when I was a kid in Kansas. It's a protected species in Florida.
A Gopher Tortoise in Florida
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2010 Virginia Allain