Strange sheep-sized rodents with webbed feet are showing up in Florida’s rivers and canals. These weird looking animals are capybara – a 100-lb guinea-pig-like creature.
Capybara spend most of their time grazing in dense grass and swampy vegetation around rivers, lakes and marshes. They can run fast, and if they feel threatened will dive into the water and swim with only their nostrils, eyes and ears above the surface.
Today, capybara are native to Central and South America, found from Panama south to Argentina. But they used to live as far north as Florida. Eleven thousand years ago, in the Pleistocene, two species of capybara roamed the grasslands and waterways of peninsula Florida – one of them was similar in size to modern capybara, the other was much larger, about six feet long, and ranged all the way to southern Texas along the gulf coast.
The capybara that are being seen today are most likely the descendents of escaped captives, but people still find fossilized capybara teeth and bones from Florida’s original capybara in the Santa Fe, Suwannee, St Marks and St Mary’s Rivers in North Florida. You may also find capybara fossils in springs and spring runs like the Ichneetucknee River. If you are lucky enough to see a live capybara take a photo of the animal or its tracks, and send us the information.
Photos of Capybara Teeth:
CONFIRMED CAPYBARA SIGHTINGS IN FLORIDA
December 1995. Adult capybara feeding on the bank of a canal near the Santa Fe river, near Lulu in Union County.
December 1995. Adult Capybara shot on the banks of the Suwannee River in Gilchrist County.
Summer 1999. Adult capybara seen by a kayaker on the “Upper Santa Fe River”.
December 1998. Remains of three juvenile capybara found along Milhopper Road near Gainesville, just west of the Devil’s Millhopper.
June 2001. An adult capybara found on dead -hit by car- on SR 72 just east of the Myakka River Bridge
March 2007. 6-8 capybara feeding in the grass near the river at I-75 and the Santa Fe River.
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