FWC takes steps to combat non-native animals in Sunshine State

Commission says species pose threat to human, environmental safety

Nile Monitor Lizard Walking taken by Florida Fish & Wildlife

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida’s native fish and wildlife are facing a serious threat posed by a variety of invasive species found throughout the state. So, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, also known as the FWC, is now taking steps to combat the introduction and spread of these non-native animals.

Thursday, the Commission voted to approve a reorganization of rules related to non-native species. This move comes just weeks after the released of annual State of the St. Johns River report revealed the findings of more than 80 invasive species in the river. 

The commission also requested a temporary executive order to limit importation of potentially high-risk injurious species. They hope this order will act as a stopgap measure while the FWC staff develop proposed rules.

Invasive species are animals not native to Florida that cause economic or environmental harm or pose a threat to human safety.

More than 500 non-native species have been reported in Florida. Eighty percent of these have been introduced via the live animal trade with over 120 established in Florida, meaning they are reproducing in the wild.

“It costs much less to prevent a species from becoming established than it does to control them once they are here,” said Commissioner Joshua Kellam. “What we need to do as a commission is focus on prevention early on to stop the next wave of invasive species.”

Although invasive species are not a problem unique to Florida, the state’s subtropical climate allows a variety of species, such as pythons, Argentine black and white tegus, green iguanas, monitor lizards, and many invasive freshwater fish species, to thrive.

Most non-native fish and wildlife find their way into Florida's habitats through escape or release from the live animal trade. Therefore, regulation is an essential component to prevent non-native species from taking hold in Florida’s environment.

“We are taking proactive steps through regulation to address those species that pose the highest risk to Florida of becoming tomorrow’s invasive species problem,” said Kipp Frohlich, Director of the FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation. “Actions we take today can prevent other species from becoming established and help avoid problems similar to the ones caused by Burmese python.”

The public can help the FWC control non-native invasive wildlife by reporting sightings to the FWC’s Exotic Species Hotline at 888-483-4681.