Lesson 6: Animals & Trees at Flamingo Gardens

Florida Animals

Have you ever seen an American black bear in the wild? Well, if you haven’t you can visit one at Flamingo Gardens in Davie, Florida. He even has his own Facebook page, Josh the Bear. Josh turned 21 years old earlier this year and is going strong. The average age for black bears in the wild is 18. The record for a bear in captivity is 44 years!

Florida Black Bears are subspecies of the American black bear and are found in Florida, Alabama and southern Georgia. 

In 1970, the Florida black bear population only numbered in the 100s. Their numbers have now rebounded to the 4000s thanks to conservation efforts.

Florida black bears usually live in habitats that consist of flatwoods, swamps, scrub oak ridges and bay heads. They like to eat berries, acorns, fruit, grass, nuts, honey, insects, deer, raccoon, and wild pig and usually live up to 15 to 25 years for males and up to 30 years for females. 

North American River Otters are also native to Florida and can be found at Flamingo Gardens in their new River Otter Habitat. River otters are found throughout the state of Florida, except in the Florida Keys. Otters have a long muscular tail, short stout legs and thick oiled fur. Their small rounded ears and nostrils close when the otter is underwater. In Florida, river otters weigh 5-14 kg (11-31 lb.). Males are larger than females. See some river otters playing in their habitat at Flamingo Gardens below.

Meet Eddie & Bella

Fast Eddie was an orphaned cub that was rescued and hand-fed, so now he trusts humans and can no longer live in the wild. He came to Flamingo Gardens about 12 years ago to live with other otters.

Bella is their new female otter, who was hit by a car. Although now rehabilitated, she would have difficulty finding food in the wild and probably not survive.  

Fast Eddie and Bella are part of one of the most successful otter breeding programs in the United States. Otters at Flamingo Gardens have produced more than 39 offspring since the program started in 1989. These otters have been released into the wild or sent to other breeding programs at sanctuaries across the U.S. Perhaps our program’s success can be attributed to the setting among all the other wildlife and our loving animal care.

Florida Panthers

No, we're not talking about our great hockey team here in South Florida, but we do love our team! Right now, we want to talk about the actual subspecies of the mountain lion, the Florida Panther! These large, tan cats, except for the whitish-gray belly and chest, have black markings that decorate the tip of the tail, ears, and around the snout (otherwise known as nose).

Get to know Florida Panthers:

  • Florida panthers are about six to seven feet long. 
  • Most males grow bigger than females. 
  • Florida panthers live in warm climate habitats like the wetlands, swamps, upland forests, and stands of saw palmetto.
  • Florida panthers are carnivores. They are skilled at hunting white-tailed deer, feral hogs, raccoons, and other medium-sized mammals and reptiles. Florida panthers also stalk birds.
  • Florida panthers are territorial and solitary, unless a pair is mating, or a female is raising cubs.
  • Mating is from November to March.
  • The Florida panther is the only subspecies of mountain lion that remains in the eastern United States.
  • Today there are only 120 to 130 Florida panthers left in the wild.
  • Not all large cats roar—in fact, Florida panthers can’t roar at all. They purr, hiss, snarl, growl and yowl to communicate.

Florida Champion Trees

Have you ever heard of this term, “Champion Tree?”  What do you think it means?

Champion Tree, Flamingo Garden

Fun Answer: Champion trees are the super-sized superstars of their type of tree.

Full Definition: Champion trees are individual trees which are exceptional examples of their species because of their enormous size, great age, rarity or historical significance.

The Champion Tree Program was created by the American Forests organization in 1940. Each year, American Forests publishes its National Register of Champion Trees and in 1975, Florida began keeping a state register called the Florida Champion Tree Register. The Florida register now contains hundreds of trees, including some national champions. All native and non-invasive naturalized tree species are eligible for nomination.


What do you think “non-invasive naturalized tree species” means? Arboretum, Flamingo Gardens

FACT: The largest native tree in Florida is a bald cypress located in Hamilton County. This tree measures 557 inches in circumference, stands 84 feet tall, and carries a crown spread of 49 feet.

Where can you see champion trees in Broward County?

FLAMINGO GARDENS in Davie, Florida

The Arboretum (Vocabulary: a large garden where many types of tree are grown, for people to look at and to be studied) of Flamingo Gardens features hundreds of native and exotic trees, accented with lush under-story plantings, ponds, stream, and a waterfall. Flamingo Gardens holds the distinction of having the largest collection of towering Florida Champion Trees, twenty in total, as certified by the Florida Forestry Service as the largest of their species. It contains the largest tree in the Florida Champion Tree register, a non-native Cluster Fig that measures 649 inches in circumference and 102 feet in height.

Oak Tree, Flamingo GardensLIVE OAK HAMMOCK

At Flamingo Gardens, you can also get lost with the whimsy feel of the unique native hammock of Live Oak trees. Many of these trees are 150 to 200 years old. Make sure you look up in the trees to find little treasures like orchids, bromeliads, and other air plants on the trees. 

FUN FACT: The hammock is one of the highest elevations n Broward County!


Career Corner!

Group Sales Manager, Flamingo GardensGroup Sales Manager: This job title may not be the first one to come to mind when you think of a place like Flamingo Gardens, but in fact, they do have one. This job is incredibly important to many businesses who depend on groups of people to come into their attraction, their restaurant, hotel, etc. As a group sales manager you will work with different associations, corporations, etc. to create packages and group pricing. Flamingo Gardens relies on many affinity groups (vocabulary: a liking or sympathy for someone or something, especially because of shared characteristics) to visit Flamingo Gardens as well as pre & post cruise groups. Other job duties may include special experience coordination, special event planning and fundraising, hospitality training, etc.

Director of Horticulture: To understand what this career is first you need to understand the definition of horticulture. Horticulture is the science and art of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, or ornamental plants. Typically you will need to receive a degree in horticulture, botany, biology, plant science, landscape design or garden management to apply for a job like this. Directors of Horticultures are usually tasked in creating and maintaining the horticultural spaces and grounds. They will look to enhance and maximize the appeal and value of the attraction, garden, botanical society, etc. that they are working for. This position usually is responsible for planning, budgeting, recording, documenting and reporting as well.  

Have you ever heard of this job before? 

Where in South Florida do you think you could work as a Director of Horticulture?