Invasive
An invasive species isn’t just one that doesn’t belong here. It is one that spreads unchecked because it has no natural predators or control. Reining in these plants and animals takes public awareness and commitment.



Invasive

An invasive species isn’t just one that doesn’t belong here. It is one that spreads unchecked because it has no natural predators or control. Reining in these plants and animals takes public awareness and commitment.

Invasive exotic species are just what their name implies: invaders from somewhere else who compete for, take over and destroy native habitat, plants, fish and wildlife. Lionfish threaten Florida’s marine fish and wildlife; Burmese pythons prey on native wildlife and domestic cats and dogs; Nile monitor lizards are a threat to the native burrowing owl; Cuban tree frogs out compete native tree frogs for food and eating the smaller ones; Gambian pouched rats, currently in the Florida Keys, could pose major agricultural problems if they gain access to the state’s mainland; and monk parakeets can cause major power outages and damage power poles by their large nesting colonies.

All of these are exotic invasive species that impact the state. To help combat the problem, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) established the Exotic Species Coordination Section to manage and minimize the impacts that exotic species have on the state’s native plant, fish and wildlife resources.

Not all exotics are considered invasive or threats; more than 500 have been identified in Florida, but most do not really cause big problems. The offenders are those who establish themselves comfortably, thrive in Florida’s inviting environment and wreak havoc on native plants, wildlife and fish. Sometimes the invaders are too strong and if not managed will cause the natives to fall victim.

These unwanted invaders are not only a disaster to the state’s ecology, but to the economy as well because once they gain a

stronghold, they are extremely difficult and expensive to control. Some of them have become so well established they will never be eradicated, instead they must be diligently and aggressively managed. For example, invasive exotics, such as the aquatic plants water hyacinth and hydrilla, would literally cover the surfaces of lakes and waterways if not properly controlled by plant managers. Fishing and boating would be impossible, and associated businesses, which provide jobs for many people and pour billions of dollars into the state’s economy, would also fall victim.

Most invasive species were released or escaped from captivity. Pet owners dump aquariums or release animals they no longer want (Burmese pythons, monk parakeets, lionfish, hydrilla); exotics hiding in packing material arrive in imported products (Cuban tree frog); and nonnative plants (water hyacinth) are imported for landscape use and spread.

Local, state and federal agencies work tirelessly on this problem. Scientists study the impacts and figure out methods to manage them. Outreach efforts include campaigns and activities designed to educate, inform and involve residents, visitors and businesses, encouraging them to become part of the solution.

You can help by being a responsible pet owner, boat operator, angler and gardener. For tips go to http://www.myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/nonnatives/

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