Wildlife viewing opportunities are highest along the hiking trail system, overlooks, and pasture areas. The gopher tortoise, Sherman's fox squirrel, and sandhill crane are a few of the state protected wildlife that can be seen on this area.

photo of box turtle by Kevin Enge
Kevin Enge
Box Turtle

Two viewing platforms/overlooks are located along the hiking trail (one along the South Trail and one on the Lake Loop overlooking Lake Pond). The wetland fringes offer excellent viewing opportunities for wading birds. Visitors may also see some of the white-tailed deer and wild turkey that are common on the area. Coachwhip snake, brown-headed nuthatch, red-headed woodpecker, gray fox and box turtle are some of the additional wildlife species that are found on this area.

You may request a copy or download or print the Split Oak Forest Bird List Adobe PDF.


Wildlife Spotlight: Gopher Tortoise

photo of gopher tortoise by Robert Vanderhoof

Robert Vanderhoof - Gopher Tortoise


The gopher tortoise is a "keystone" species. Its burrow, dug in dry, well-drained soil and up to 9 meters long, is home to a host of other animals.

Nearly 400 species of animals, including the threatened Eastern indigo snake, gopher frog, and the rare Florida mouse use borrows of the gopher tortoise. Several species of insects are found only in these borrows.


photo of active gopher tortoise burrow

Betsy Purdum - Active gopher tortoise burrow


Gopher tortoises exhibit two types of feeding behavior: gorging on grass or selectively eating herbaceous plants. They  locate food by both sight and smell, often sniffing before deciding to eat. Throughout Florida, suitable habitat for the gopher tortoise is shrinking because the high, dry ground it needs for its burrows is also desirable for residential, commercial and agricultural development. The gopher tortoise was legally killed for food until 1987. Today it is illegal to kill, capture, own, buy, or sell a gopher tortoise.

Split Oak Forest Bird List Adobe PDF
Wildlife Viewing Tips

FWC Facts:
The number of Florida residents who participate in wildlife viewing around their homes (3.3 million) would rank them as the 22nd largest state in the nation.

Learn More at AskFWC