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In South Florida, where the Everglades meet the bays, environmental challenges abound. Sea level rise threatens homes and real estate. Invasive species imperil native plants and animals. Pesticides reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, but at what cost? WLRN's award-winning environment reporting strives to capture the color and complexity of human interaction with one of the most biodiverse areas of the planet.

The Key Largo Woodrat And Cotton Mouse Were Already Endangered. Then Came Pythons.

The Key Largo woodrat, nearly driven to extinction by loss of habitat and feral cats, faces a new threat: breeding pythons, feral cats and tegu lizards.

When the Key Largo cotton mouse and woodrat were placed on the Endangered Species List in 1984, federal scientists named several factors that were imperiling the rodents’ existence. Most serious was the loss of habitat due to development.

Not mentioned were Burmese pythons, feral cats or black and white tegus, a species of omnivorous reptile native to South America that has gained a foothold from Florida City to about halfway down the 18 Mile Stretch of U.S. 1 leading to the Florida Keys. But in the 35 years since the woodrat and cotton mouse became federally protected, those three predators have become major obstacles to them shedding their endangered status.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week released draft recovery plan revisions for 42 endangered species including three species found only in the Florida Keys — the woodrat and cotton mouse, as well as the Schaus’ swallowtail butterfly, which used to thrive in the tropical hardwood hammocks in the Miami area, but is now found only in a few areas in Key Largo.

Read more from our news partner The Miami Herald

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