invasive species

Officials say Florida trappers have captured a record-setting python as part of a growing effort that encourages hunters to remove the invasive snakes from the Everglades.

When Florida wildlife leaders effectively declared “open season” on iguanas, they called for the animals to be killed on private property. And just this week, they doubled down on python eradication. Both animals are considered invasive species in Florida, but recent and past issues with how the animals have been killed has led to accusations of animal cruelty. The state says all killings have to be done “humanely”. But, what does that actually mean? 

pythons
Caitie Switalski / WLRN

Florida agencies are increasing the number of python hunters—and the amount of land they're allowed to hunt on. 

 

"We're committed to doubling the resources for python removal in the upcoming year," Governor Ron DeSantis said.

DeSantis made the announcement at Everglades Holiday Park in Broward County Wednesday afternoon. Six people held a fidgety 12-foot long python behind him. 

"Could you move a little bit that way with it?" Desantis asked the snake handlers, laughing. 

Frank Ridgley / Zoo Miami

Invasive snake populations in the Everglades continue to have devastating impacts on the ecosystem. 

Burmese Pythons, North African Pythons and Boa Constrictors have reduced the population of fur bearing animals by 99 percent, according to scientists. Since 2007, Zoo Miami has been working with the National Park Service, the United States Geological Services and the University of Florida to manage and eradicate invasive species from the Everglades.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Across South Florida, 2019 is shaping up to be the year of the big lizard.

At their yearly gathering to talk about invasive species this week, more than 200 scientists from universities, state and federal agencies and national parks said the spike in big lizard sightings has caught them by surprise. In addition to green iguanas and tegus, nile monitor lizards, water monitors, spiny-tailed iguanas and rhinoceros iguana appear to be spreading.

Reptile owners and vendors affected by an addition to Florida’s prohibited species list are filing a petition to challenge the decision.

Florida is home to more than 500 invasive species. Not all of these plants and animals are big and scary like pythons, but they can still harm the state’s native wildlife, and a lot of time and money is spent fighting them.

This week Florida Matters speaks with scientists on the front lines of this battle about how we’re doing.


Big Cypress National Preserve

In the Florida Everglades, a team of invasive species researchers got more than it bargained for – a 17-foot-long python, plus 73 developing python eggs.

On Friday, Big Cypress National Preserve announced in a post to Facebook that its team of researchers had discovered the largest python ever to be removed from the swamp.

The pregnant female weighed 140 pounds, though presumably some of that was egg weight.

University of Florida Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation / Courtesy

South Florida is experiencing an infestation of poisonous Bufo toads, also known as Cane toads.

These creatures are not native to South Florida but were brought to the region to control pests attacking the sugar cane crop. They like to hop around “human modified environments near a source of moisture,” says Dr. Steven Johnson, an associate professor at University of Florida’s Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, such as suburban neighborhoods, gold courses and baseball fields.

The Galapagos Islands are like a biological ark in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Giant tortoises live there, and swimming iguanas, and numerous species found nowhere else. It's one of the world's most protected places.

But scientists have discovered that dozens of exotic species have invaded the Galapagos — underwater.

R.D. Bartlett / Associated Press

A Florida suburb is being plagued by thousands of poisonous toads.

Experts say the amphibians are bufo toads, also known as cane toads. Residents in the infested Palm Beach Gardens neighborhood worry toxins secreted by the toads will harm their pets and children.

News stations broadcast images of the small toads clogging pool filters, hopping en masse across driveways and sidewalks, and lurking in landscaped lawns.

Labor Day is the last day to participate in the Lionfish Challenge.

There's a new effort underway make hundreds of thousands of dried and preserved plants collected along the East Coast available through a digital database.

For centuries, explorers, scientists, and amateur botanists scoured the country to document and preserve plant species. Once prized like fine art, the collections were often bequeathed to institutions that housed herbaria, or libraries for plants.

FLORIDA FISH AND WILDLIFE CONSERVATION COMMISSION

The U.S. Geological Survey, USGS, is collecting DNA to track a new snake hybrid in the Everglades.

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