Why Non-Native Species are a Problem in Florida

This is a wonderful piece I am sharing with my readers that covers a very important subject – I could not have written this any better at all – originally posted at http://highlandstoday.com/list/highlands-agri-leader-news/non-native-species-pose-problems-20130611/

Non-native species pose problems

by Ann m. O’phelan
Central Florida’s Agri-Leader

Published: June 11, 2013

Just like many of us out-of-state transplants, the animal and plant kingdom has it’s own set of non-natives; those that did not originate from the state but are here now.

With a humid subtropical climate, 2-million acres of Everglades, 1,197 miles of coastline, and over 7,700 lakes that are greater than 10 acres, there are plenty of places for the non-natives to thrive. And thrive they do. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, “Over 500 non-native fish and wildlife species and 1,180 nonnative plant species have been documented in the state.”

There are two ways for the non-natives to arrive here. One way is to have been brought in by humans, either by escaping or by being released to the wild. Another way is by natural range expansions.

The range of non-natives is vast – squirrel monkeys that escaped from tourist attractions, Cuban treefrogs that hitched a ride in cargo and water hyacinths that arrived from South America only to become vast mosquito breeding grounds.

Some non-natives are actually beneficial to the state. Take for example citrus and cattle, both of which were brought to the state by the Spaniards in the early 1500s. Other non-natives don’t present a threat to native species and are considered established, such as a red-eared slider turtle.

However, some non-natives clearly present worrisome ecological issues, such as Nile monitors that are now living in the Everglades and devouring burrowing owls and crocodile eggs. there’s also the African Gambian Pouch rats that are now in the Keys competing for food with endangered species and eating bird eggs.

A few of the non-natives making headlines these days are Burmese pythons, lionfish, Bullseye Snakehead fish, and channeled apple snails.

“Non-natives may compete with native species for food, shelter or space; they may introduce parasites or diseases, and because they are in a new environment, there may not be the population checks and balances that were present in their native range,” said Kelly Gestring, non-native fish and aquatic wildlife coordinator, FWC.

The FWC works to control non-native species in many ways. They attempt to eradicate the species, offer special permits for the removal of certain non-native snakes, assist with other agencies to find the best ways to manage and remove non-native species, train volunteers, incorporate certain biological control measures and encourage the consumptive use of non-natives when possible.

“Sportfishing for non-native fish species such as Mayan cichlid, oscar and bullseye snakehead increase angler success and enjoyment and lessens their potential impact on native species,” Gestring said.

To help keep the non-native animal and plants species under control, the best thing Floridians can do is to not release exotic pets and only plant non-invasive plants

“Once a non-native species is reproducing in the wild, there is little that can be done to eradicate them,” said Gestring.

Gestring encouraged pet owners to do their research ito choose the right pet before purchase.

“If you have an exotic pet you no longer want or can care for, do not release them,” said Gestring. Contact FWC’s Pet Amnesty Adoption coordinator at (888) 483-4681 to find a qualified person to adopt your pet. Also, check for other options at: http://www.myfwc.com/wildlife habitats/nonnatives/.

The FWC also holds statewide pet amnesty events for pet owners who want to return their non-native pets with no questions asked.

To report a non-native animal or one that needs responding to, contact: (888) 483-4681, online at IveGot1.org, or via the free IveGot1 app.

For more information about managing invasive plants, check with your local extension office for assistance.

The cost of managing non-native species in Florida is well into the millions. As an example, since 2005, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in partnership with other organizations, has spent more than $6 million in attempts to find solutions just for Burmese pythons and other large invasive constrictor snakes in Florida.

“Prevention is the key to keeping non-native species out of Florida’s ecosystems,” said Gestring. – See more at: http://highlandstoday.com/list/highlands-agri-leader-news/non-native-species-pose-problems-20130611/#sthash.sSHC2F9B.dpuf


About notacluegal

Jeanene was born in Pittsburgh, PA. As a young child her family was very active in the outdoors. Things changed when her parents decided to travel down different paths in life and with that decision so went many of the opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Being lucky to live in the suburbs Jeanene always had a backyard to play in and loved being outdoors. As the years passed she took every opportunity to be outdoors. She bought land in Tennessee and as a single mom moved her young daughter to the mountains. The were many life lessons learned on that mountain. There was no plumbing on the property – or even a house, but that did not stop her. She learned to live off of what was available and built her own cabin from the trees on her property. Those were rough years but the most rewarding. Now Jeanene resides in Tampa, Fl. and works as an office manager full time….but still yeans to be outdoors. Jeanene started “Not a Clue Adventures” to teach everyone she could how wonderful the outdoors are! That camping and fishing and hiking can be done by everyone and at many different levels. Single mom’s no longer have to be afraid to take their sons and daughters outdoors. By working with young couples, single parents and even seniors, she gets to teach others about her love for the outdoors and hopes to open their eyes to new adventures. In 2009, Jeanene completed certification as a Leave No Trace Instructor. She also works closely with the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) and the Florida State Parks. Jeanene is also certified in First Aid/Adult CPR.
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1 Response to Why Non-Native Species are a Problem in Florida

  1. “Non-natives may compete with native species for food, shelter or space; they may introduce parasites or diseases, and because they are in a new environment, there may not be the population checks and balances that were present in their native range,” said Kelly Gestring, non-native fish and aquatic wildlife coordinator, FWC.

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