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NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

Florida is getting closer to imposing stiffer fines for bear poaching and expanding rules against shark “finning.”

A 10-day competition to remove invasive Burmese pythons from public lands in South Florida begins Friday, Jan. 10. 

This week on Florida Matters, we share some of our favorite discussions about plants, animals and environmental challenges facing our state.

The Burmese python has come a long way from once being a beloved household pet, to now a top predator in Florida's wild.

A study on Florida's east coast shows these invasive snakes have decimated the small mammal population in the Everglades. An expert in python research says warming temperatures could be a factor in their rise. 

Florida scientists launched an experiment Thursday morning using a small bug they believe will be a game-changer in controlling Brazilian peppertrees across the state.

Florida has an iguana problem. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has declared an open season on the lizards, which it says are an invasive, non-native species. But the animals are still for sale in stores throughout the state. So, why not stop selling them? 

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.

Young female green iguana
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

By Erin O'Brien

Green iguanas, an invasive species, have been making increased appearances in the Tampa Bay area. Now, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is asking people to help them humanely decrease the number of the creatures. 

Wild Boars At Shogun Farms
Courtesy Shogun Farms

Ed Chiles is the son of the late Governor Lawton Chiles. He’s also the owner of several seafood restaurants: the Sandbar on Anna Maria Island, the Beach House in Bradenton Beach and Mar Vista Dockside on Longboat Key.

Chiles's interest in local and sustainable food sourcing has led him to experiment with cooking one of the state's invasive species -- wild hogs. On The Zest Podcast, host Robin Sussingham spoke to him about some of the ways his restaurants' chefs have been utilizing wild boars from Shogun Farms.

The invasive tegu lizards are known to eat the eggs of some of Florida's native wildlife. Recently scientists discovered gopher tortoises, a Threatened species, in some tegu stomachs.
Mike Avery / USDA Wildlife Services

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.


A Burmese python was captured in this photo beneath the nest of white ibis in Everglades National Park near Tamiami Trail.
Sophie Orzechowski / UF/IFAS

Researchers say invasive Burmese pythons are threatening wading bird nests in the Florida Everglades. 

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

A Florida family is terrified of a huge Monitor lizard that has taken up residence in their back yard.

Florida’s wildlife agency will be holding a lionfish summit in the Fall. The goal is to find more ways to get rid of the spiny invasive species plaguing state waters.

A man with a python hidden inside an external hard drive was stopped from boarding a Florida plane headed to Barbados.

Is there anything more Floridian than a flamingo?

They’re everywhere. Pink plastic ornaments dotting lawns. On cocktail swizzlers and motel signs.

An invasive and destructive pest has been identified in the farmlands near Miami, Florida agriculture officials said Tuesday.

Florida is marking a milestone in its attempt to control an infestation of Burmese pythons in the Everglades.

Measure Targeting Invasive Species Signed

Mar 27, 2018

Gov. Rick Scott has signed a bill aimed at reducing the number of pythons and other invasive species that cause damage in parts of the state, including the Everglades.

The bill (SB 168), which Scott signed Friday after it was unanimously approved this month by the Legislature, sets up a pilot program targeting pythons and species such as tegu lizards and lionfish.

Under the program, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will be able to enter contracts with people to capture or destroy the species on public lands and in state waters.

  Saturday is "Lionfish Awareness and Removal Day" in Florida. Lionfish are an invasive species off Florida's coasts. People in southwest Florida are studying the fish's impact and others are helping to keep the invasive species' population under control. 

Bill Sets Limits On Nonnative Pet Sales

Apr 4, 2017

The Florida House okayed a bill to limit the sales of nonnative animals by pet dealers. The Bill hopes to discourage nonnative sales altogether.

Florida is a prime breeding ground for invasive species that can threaten the state’s ecology and economy. For every lionfish or Burmese python that’s captured, thousands remain. And the sheer scope of the problem is pushing some lawmakers to ask how much of a difference state funding actually makes.

Florida’s invasive species problem can be daunting, with real implications for the state’s ecology and economy. The breadth of the issue is spurring some lawmakers to ask if state funding makes a difference.

When a diver who was also a volunteer for the Reef Environmental Education Foundation saw a fish that looked out of place in the waters off Dania Beach in October, she sent a photo to REEF, a marine conservation nonprofit based in Key Largo.

South Florida is a hotspot for invasive species, and the exotic plants, reptiles, amphibians, and fish that take root in the subtropical region of Florida can cause harm to the ecology, economy, and even human health.

From invasive Burmese pythons to Argentine black and white tegus, from Clown Knifefish in the water to the climbing, coiling kudzu plants, Florida’s native plants and animals face displacement by nonnative species.

Burmese pythons, lionfish, african land snails -- these are just a few of the invasive species considered threats to Florida ecosystems. And the fact that you really can't snuggle with serpent, a venomous fish or a disease-carrying mollusk perhaps makes them easier to eradicate.

But what does Florida do about a potential invader that's a little on the cute side?

Nile Crocodile Latest Invasive Threat In Florida Everglades

May 23, 2016
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Researchers say the Nile crocodile could become the Everglades’ latest invasive top predator.

Researchers are concerned about another nonnative species moving into Florida waters. Schools of the regal damselfish now live in coral reefs on the western side of the Gulf of Mexico. The fish are not harmful, but they could be a nuisance.

Registration begins soon for the Python Challenge, which encourages hunters to kill or capture pythons in the Everglades for cash prizes.

Florida’s fishing industry has dealt with its fair share of problems, with oil spills and grouper shortages. But as Matthew Seeger reports, an article from Florida Taxwatch exposes another problem- ecological damage caused by a hungry little troublemaker known as the lionfish.

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