For those visiting Florida for almost any wildlife-related purpose – especially herps – Everglades National Park (ENP) is the pinnacle. Granted, for sheer diversity of possible sightings, there are better places in the peninsula: but ENP is almost always a guaranteed good time. A typical night’s cruise in the park seldom, if ever, produces less than a dozen individuals, and on a good night a dozen, 13, 14 or more species of snake can be encountered: not to mention a smattering of frogs, lizards, and Crocodilians.
Of course, ENP is famous not just for its huge number of Alligators (Alligator mississippiensis), but the great American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) can also be seen sliding through the mangrove swamps. For herping purposes, most herpers choose to night cruise Main Park Road, a 40-something mile road with a whole bunch of tributary roads, all adding up to nearly 100 miles of road to cruise ending at Flamingo, where one can jump out of the car and view the aforementioned crocs at the Flamingo Marina. Night hiking in the park should also not be counted out as a viable herping method for warm summer nights: it can take some getting used to, but can be extremely productive. But for most herpers, all-night cruising is their best friend. I say all night because, in my experience, the later the better for pythons.
But, if a winter foray into the park is more your style (or in better fitting with your schedule), herps can still be found. I get a lot of questions about what, if anything, is moving in the winter. The answer is this: almost anything can be found in the park in the winter that can be turned up during the summer. Your tactics just might have to change. Winter is the time for hiking: get on foot and get into as many habitat situations as you can, and when your feet feel like they’re going to fall off, drive around a little bit by day. Pythons, Diamondbacks, Kingsnakes, Racers and many other snake species can potentially be turned up in such situations.
Look for more ENP Herping information in my upcoming field guide: “A Field Guide to the Snakes of Southern Florida.” I’ll be posting preorder information soon!