Showing posts with label Invasive Species. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Invasive Species. Show all posts

Monday, July 3, 2017

Giant Lizard That Eat Cats, Tegu On The Loose In Brevard County

PALM BAY, Florida – An invasive species of giant lizard known as a tegu was repeatedly spotted this week in Palm Bay, Florida.

The Argentine black and white tegu can grow up to four-feet long, has sharp teeth, strong jaws, and sharp claws. Tegus are black and white in color with banding along the tail.

Tegus  reproduce quickly and eat a wide variety of food items, including small animals such as domestic cats, and the eggs of many wildlife species.

The tegu was spotted in a Palm Bay neighborhood located around Town Road Southwest and Topeka Road Southwest.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s database, tegus have been spotted before in Brevard County. In 2015, two confirmed tegu sightings were recorded in north and south Melbourne, Florida.

Although the giant lizards spend most of their time on land, they can swim and may submerge underwater for long periods of time.

What to do if you see a Tegu

1. Take a picture.
2. Note the location.
3. Report the sighting to FWC.

Reporting your sighting will help wildlife managers better understand where the animals are found. Sightings can be reported over the phone to FWC’s exotic species reporting hotline at 1-888-Ive-Got1 (1-888-483-4681) or online at

Tegu Removal

The FWC says that the best method for removing tegus is by trapping. If you see a tegu on your property you can contact a local wildlife trapper to remove the animal.

Photo credit: FWC

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Deadly Rat Lungworm Spreads Across Florida

Floridians have yet another reason to wash their Florida produce. That’s because rat lungworm, a parasitic nematode that can cause death, coma, or paralysis in humans and animals is spreading across the Sunshine State, according to University of Florida researchers.

In a survey of 18 counties, nearly 23 percent of rats, about 16 percent of rat fecal samples and nearly 2 percent of land snails tested positive for the nematode.

“The parasite is here in Florida and is something that needs to be taken seriously,” said Heather Stockdale Walden, an assistant professor in the UF department of infectious diseases and pathology.

“The reality is that it is probably in more counties than we found it in, and it is also probably more prevalent in the southeastern U.S. than we think. The ability for this historically subtropical nematode to thrive in a more temperate climate is alarming.”

So far, rats and snails in Alachua, Leon, St. Johns, Orange and Hillsborough counties tested positive for the parasite.

Wash Florida Fruits and Vegetables

Several steps can help lower the risk of infection, Stockdale Walden said.

“Wash produce,” she said. “Some snails are very small and can easily hide in lettuce leaves. Teach children not to eat snails, and if they handle snails, make sure they wash their hands. Be aware of the potential risks associated with eating snails and also raw or undercooked frogs and crustaceans.”

Keep Children And Pets Away From Snails

Snails ingest rat lungworm larvae by eating infected rat feces. When a rat eats an infected snail, the larvae penetrate the rat’s intestine and enter its circulatory system, which transports them to the brain. There, they develop into immature worms, re-enter the circulatory system and travel to the rat’s pulmonary artery where they mature and reproduce. When new larvae hatch, they are coughed up and swallowed by the rat and pass through its feces, completing the life cycle.

Humans can ingest the parasite by consuming infected snails or infected frogs and crustaceans, which can also pick up the nematode.

Infection with rat lungworm can also cause meningitis in animals, as well as limb weakness or paralysis, neck pain and central nervous system problems.

To protect pets and livestock, be mindful of snails in animals’ living space, Stockdale Walden said. Check watering troughs for snails that might have fallen in and monitor animals for snail-eating habits.

Rat Lungworm Symptoms

Clinical signs of infection in adults include headache, stiff neck, fever, vomiting, nausea and paralysis of the face and limbs. The most common symptoms of infection in children are nausea, vomiting and fever.

While the fatality rate of infection in humans is low, the parasite can cause eosinophilic meningitis if it becomes trapped and dies in the brain, and severe infections can cause coma or death.

Imported Cargo Containers Likely To Blame

Established in Hawaii and occasionally found in the southern U.S., rat lungworm, or Angiostrongylus cantonensis, relies on rat and snail hosts to complete its lifecycle but can pose a health risk to humans and animals that ingest infected snails.

While snails live most of their lives within a small area, they can easily be transported on cargo containers and in potted plants, which is probably how the parasite first arrived in Florida, said study co-author John Slapcinsky, collections manager of invertebrate zoology at the Florida Museum.

Slapcinsky also noted rat lungworm “doesn’t seem to be picky” about the species of snails it infects and could threaten native snail populations. In addition to finding the parasite in three non-native snail species, the research team detected the parasite in three native species: the Florida amber snail; the perforate dome snail; and the quick gloss snail.

“There are a lot of snail species endemic to South Florida that don’t occur anywhere else, and the last thing you want to do is throw one more problem their way,” he said. “Rat lungworm is finding a whole new pool of animals to infect. The more species it infects, the larger its population can be, which could make transmission even easier.”

Photo credit: yves Tennevin / Flickr. Image cropped.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Maggots That Feed On Living People and Pets Move Up Florida Peninsula

Flesh-eating Screwworms Invade Florida

A foreign maggot species that feeds on the living flesh of animals and humans has recently been discovered for the first time on the Florida mainland. The invasive species, called New World screwworms, are fly larvae (maggots) that can infest livestock and other warm-blooded animals, including people.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Maggots That Feed On Living Human and Animal Flesh Invade Florida

Flesh-eating Screwworms Invade Florida

A foreign maggot species that feeds on the living flesh of animals and humans has recently been found in South Florida. The invasive species, called New World screwworms, are fly larvae (maggots) that can infest livestock and other warm-blooded animals, including people.

Screwworms most often enter an animal through an open wound or, in the case of newborns, the navel. They feed on the animal’s living flesh and, if not treated, infestations can be fatal. The New World screwworm (Cochliomyia hominivorax) has not been widely present in the United States since the 1960s, but is still found in most of South America and in five Caribbean countries.

According to Dan Clark, Manager of the Florida Keys Wildlife Refuges Complex, more than 50 endangered Key deer were in such deteriorated conditions after being eaten alive by the maggots that euthanasia was necessary, with at least eight having been euthanized between last Sunday and Monday.

In response to the recent screwworm infestation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, as well as partnering agencies, are implementing an aggressive eradication effort in order not only to protect the Key deer, but also to protect human health, Florida’s livestock industry, and other animals including pets should the pest spread.

Although the occurrence of screwworms in humans is less common than in livestock or other mammals, people are urged to keep wounds clean and closely monitor open cuts and wounds for the presence of maggots. Anyone who suspects the presence of screwworms should contact a physician immediately.

The adult screwworm fly is the size of a common housefly, or slightly larger, but different in color and appearance. The screwworm fly has orange eyes and a metallic dark blue to blue-green or gray body. It also has three dark stripes running down its back, with the middle stripe shorter than the outer two. 

A female screwworm fly typically mates once in her lifetime and lays her eggs on or near an open wound or the mucous membranes of an animal’s nose, mouth or ears. In her lifespan, the screwworm fly can produce thousands of offspring. The eggs hatch into larvae within a day and then feed on the animal’s tissue for five to seven days before maturing. The mature larvae then tunnel into the ground and emerge as adults, ready to mate and continue the cycle.

While they can fly much farther under ideal conditions, adult flies generally do not travel more than a couple of miles if there are suitable host animals in the area. New World screwworm is more likely to spread long distances when infested animals move to new areas.

Photo credit: John Kucharski/Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Exotic Pet Amnesty Day At Brevard Zoo

MELBOURNE, Florida – The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Brevard Zoo will hold an Exotic Pet Amnesty Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 3, 2016, in front of the Nyami Nyami River Lodge at Brevard Zoo located at 8225 North Wickham Road in Melbourne, Florida.

Exotic pets can be surrendered with no questions asked. Every pet that is surrendered is inspected by a veterinarian, and all healthy pets are placed with pre-qualified adopters that same day.

The Exotic Pet Amnesty Program is an effort to reduce the number of nonnative species being released into the wild by exotic pet owners who can no longer care for their pets or no longer wish to keep them. Amnesty Day events are held around the State of Florida to provide the opportunity for people to surrender their exotic pets free of charge and with no penalties.

When exotic pets are released into the wild, they often become an invasive species that can harm native species, and endanger people and pets. Florida’s subtropical climate is one reason the state has the world’s largest number of invasive species. The State of Florida spends over $80 million a year to help rid the Sunshine State of these invasive species.

Two Green Anacondas, considered to be the largest snake species in the world, were found in the wild in Brevard County in February 2016 and December 2015.

Another invasive species that is spreading from South Florida into Brevard County is the Nile monitor lizard which can grow to over 5 feet long and weigh close to 15 pounds. The monitors are known in their native Africa to prey or scavenge for a variety of small animals, including domestic cats.

Above photo: A Green Anaconda was captured in Brevard County earlier this year. Credit: FWC

Friday, May 20, 2016

UF Study: Nile Crocodiles Found In Florida Are Related

A Nile crocodile captured in Everglades National Park. Credit: National Park Service

GAINESVILLE, Florida — DNA analysis has determined that invasive Nile crocodiles captured in Florida between 2010 and 2014 are related, according to a new study by University of Florida researchers. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

FWC Offers Reward For Anacondas On Florida’s Space Coast

green anaconda
Green Anaconda

BREVARD COUNTY, Florida – The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is seeking the public’s help in determining how two green anacondas were found in the wild in Brevard County, Florida.

On February 3rd, an 8-foot, 8-inch green anaconda (pictured above) was turned over to FWC officials after its capture in Brevard County. The nonnative snake was collected in the Oxford Ridge neighborhood of Melbourne, Florida. 

The snake was later euthanized and turned over to biologists for research regarding the constrictor’s reproductive status, overall health and gut content. An examination of the gut contents showed that the snake had recently consumed a domestic rat, leading investigators to believe that the snake had been privately owned in the recent past. The snake did not have a PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tag as required by state law for this species.

Earlier, in November, a different green anaconda had been found near the Brevard and Orange county line. It also was not PIT tagged, and a determination on private ownership cannot be made since the remains were not examined by biologists.

Green anacondas are considered to be the largest snake in the world, and make their home in northern South America. Female snakes can reach 26 feet and can feed on medium- and large-sized prey.

The FWC listed the green anaconda as a conditional species in 2010, prohibiting ownership in the state for personal use. Conditional nonnative species are considered to be dangerous to the ecology and/or the health and welfare of people in Florida. This species of anaconda is also listed as an injurious species under the federal Lacey Act, which prohibits importation and interstate transportation without a federal permit.

Due to the proximity of these two snakes, the FWC asks the public to report to the FWC any information regarding the possible illegal breeding, possession or release of this nonnative species by calling the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922 (FWCC) or by email or text to [email protected]. Callers may be eligible for a reward in the event of an arrest.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Green Anaconda Captured In Brevard County, Florida

BREVARD COUNTY, Florida – Florida Fish and Wildlife officials captured a green anaconda in Brevard County, Florida.

According to FWC, the snake was captured in the St. John’s River near the Orange County line off of State Road 50.  The aquatic reptile measured over 9 feet in length which is just over half the size an average anaconda will reach at full maturity (15-17 feet). The green anaconda is the largest, heaviest, and second-longest snake species in the world capable of eating wild boars and deer.

FWC officials killed the snake because the anaconda is native to South America and is considered an invasive species in Florida. The snake’s death caused some controversy on social media.

“I don’t even care for snakes but the fact that they euthanize it makes me sick,” was a common sentiment expressed on FWC Facebook page after the snakes discovery was announced.

Anacondas are not allowed to be kept as pets. Anyone who possesses an anaconda can surrender the animal to a licensed recipient at any time with no penalties. These snakes can also be surrendered during Exotic Pet Amnesty Day events. 

If you see nonnative fish and wildlife, FWC asks that you please report them to their Invasive Species Hotline at 1-888-IveGot1 (1-888-483-4861), online at or by using the free smart phone app IVEGOT1. 

Photo Credit: FWC

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Cat-Eating Monitor Lizards Are Breeding In Florida

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is increasing its efforts to locate and remove Nile monitor lizards that can grow to over 5 feet long and weigh close to 15 pounds. 

The lizards, which are native to Africa, have been found in Palm Beach County, Florida. The monitors are known in their native Africa to prey or scavenge for a variety of small animals, including domestic cats.  In Florida, Nile monitors could impact populations of nesting birds (especially burrowing owls), gopher tortoises, nesting sea turtles, nesting American crocodiles, and other species listed as threatened or endangered.

Proposal To Allow Deer and Hog Hunting On Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge


MERRITT ISLAND, Florida — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to allow a deer and feral hog hunt on about 6,000 acres on the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge near Merritt Island and Titusville, Florida.   

The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge invites the public to comment on the proposal and will hold an informational public meeting on July 8, 2013 at the Mims/Scottsmoor Public Library, 3615 Lionel Road, Mims, FL at 6 p.m.  Refuge staff will present the proposal, answer questions, and take your comments.

The hunt area being proposed is north of Haulover canal on both sides of State Road 3 within the refuge boundary.  While waterfowl hunting has been a traditional use on the refuge since the 1960’s, the proposal expands the hunting program to include deer and feral hogs.  Feral hogs are a nuisance, invasive species on the refuge causing damage to roads, dikes, and trails and occasionally destroying sea turtle nests.  Wildlife vehicle strikes are common along major roads on the refuge and half of strikes involve feral hogs.  

Wildlife officials say that the proposed hunt will not eradicate or control feral hog populations, but will remove some animals and possibly lessen the amount of damage and vehicle strikes.

Please ensure your comments are received by July 22, 2013, to be included in the development of an environmental assessment for the proposed hunt.  The public may submit comments at the public meeting or via mail:  Merritt Island NWR, Attn: Upland Hunt, P.O. Box 2683, Titusville, FL, 32781, or via e-mail to: [email protected].

$1,500 Prize in Florida Python Hunt

DAVIE, Florida — Nearly 800 people are registered and ready to compete to see who can bring in the longest and the most Burmese pythons from designated public lands in south Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announced today at the 2013 Python Challenge™ Kickoff in Davie, Florida. 

New Guinea Flatworm Invades Florida

New Guinea flatworm in Coral Gables, Florida.  Credit: Makiri Sei.

MIAMI, Florida – The New Guinea flatworm, considered one of the 100 most invasive alien species in the world, has established itself in South Florida.

Giant Tiger Shrimp On The Rise In U.S. Waters

The recent rise in sightings of non-native Asian tiger shrimp off the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts has government scientists working to determine the cause of the increase and the possible consequences for native fish and seafood in those waters.  

Nile Crocodile Captured In Florida

Photo: National Park Service

HOMESTEAD, Florida – Everglades National Park, and partners including the University of Florida (UF), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and the Swamp Apes (a volunteer organization), worked together last weekend to capture a Nile crocodile that was reported in Everglades National Park, in the Chekika area of the park, which is currently closed to the public.


Members of the Swamp Apes, authorized agents for the exotic removal program in Everglades National Park, notified the park that they had spotted the Nile Crocodile while conducting regular Burmese Python surveys.


On Sunday, March 9th, an interagency team started an operation to remove the exotic animal from the park . After several hours of corralling the crocodile into a small section of a canal, the team was able to capture the animal.


“Exotic reptiles continue to challenge the health of south Florida ecosystems we are charged with protecting,” said Superintendent Dan Kimball in a release. “Unfortunately federal and state agencies in Florida spend over 80 million dollars a year to remove invasive plants and animals to protect our natural resources.  Our ongoing partnership with federal and state agencies and volunteers to remove exotic plants and animals from protected areas is essential!”


Circumstances surrounding the escape or release of the crocodile are  under an ongoing criminal investigation by FWC. 

Nile crocodiles are the second largest crocodillians in the world.  Officials say that this crocodile is a juvenile and not yet of breeding age with a total length of approximately 5.5 feet and weight of 37.4 pounds.

More Invasive Species:


Experts To Discuss Lionfish Invasion

Lionfish. Image Credit: NOAA
COCOA BEACH, Florida –  In an effort to determine research and management gaps and to bring together leaders in the lionfish issue, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is hosting a Lionfish Summit October 22-24 at the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront hotel located at 1550 North Atlantic Avenue in Cocoa Beach, Florida.

The three-day summit is open to the public and will feature presentations from leaders in lionfish research and management, open discussions on where the gaps in research and management are, and brainstorming on the best methods to fill those gaps. The summit is being sponsored by the Guy Harvey Foundation, the Wildlife Foundation of Florida and Florida Sea Grant.

“The expansion of lionfish populations represents a serious threat to marine ecosystems in Florida,” said FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley. “Dealing with this highly invasive, nonnative species and the negative impacts on our environment and economy will require a strong cooperative effort among government agencies and affected stakeholders. All ideas are welcome in discovering new ways to help control lionfish populations, educate the public, mitigate the effects lionfish have on native species, and understand their impacts.”

Native to the Indo-Pacific region, lionfish were first spotted in Florida waters in the mid-1980s. In recent years, their numbers have increased dramatically and their population has spread throughout the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and up the Atlantic coast of the United States. Recent research indicates they have a negative impact on our native species and habitats. Lionfish have no natural predators in our waters, and they eat and compete for food with native species, including economically important species such as snapper and grouper. Currently, the best method of control is human removal via dip-net or spear.

Lionfish Distribution
Lionfish Distribution in U.S. Credit: USGS
Lionfish were first reported off Florida’s Atlantic Coast near Dania Beach in 1985; in the 1990s four reports were made near Miami, Boca Raton and Palm Beach and one report came from Bermuda. In 2000 the species began to be recorded off the Atlantic coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, while reports from Bermuda and Florida continued. By 2005 the first report was made from the Bahamas. The species has now been regularly recorded all along the east coast of Florida, with multiple observations throughout the Florida Keys, and they are widespread in the Caribbean.  Individual lionfish have been collected or were observed in the northern Gulf of Mexico off Pensacola and Apalachicola in 2010.  Lionfish have been found in shallow waters to depths of 1,000 ft.

Is a license required to harvest lionfish?

A Florida recreational fishing license is not required for recreational fishers targeting lionfish while using a pole spear, a Hawaiian Sling, a handheld net or any spearing device that is specifically designed and marketed exclusively for lionfish. There is no recreational or commercial harvest bag limit for lionfish.


Are lionfish poisonous? 

Lionfish are venomous.  They have up to18 needle-like spines, each of which has a venom gland.  The venom is used as a defense mechanism and is injected when something presses against the tip of the spine. The meat of lionfish is not poisonous.


What should I do if I am stung by a lionfish?

Lionfish should be handled carefully; they have venom glands on the dorsal, pelvic and anal spines. Lionfish venom causes painful stings.

NOAA recommends treating a puncture wound by immersing the wound area in hot (not scalding) water for 30-90 minutes and to seek medical attention as soon as possible. The Poison Help Hotline at 1-800-222-1222 is available 24 hours a day, every day.


Is it okay to eat lionfish?

It is legal to eat lionfish. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Florida Department of Health have not issued statements on eating lionfish.


Where are lionfish native?

Lionfish are native to the reefs and rocky crevices of the south Pacific and Indian Oceans, but they are now found in most warm ocean habitats throughout the world.

What do lionfish eat? 

Juvenile lionfish eat mostly invertebrates, but shift their diet to fish as adults and eat reef fish.  Adult lionfish spread their pectoral fins and use them to “herd” prey.  This is a very effective predatory style as it is unfamiliar to native Florida fishes.  They also compete for food with native predatory fish such as grouper and snapper.

Lionfish can have negative effects on the overall reef habitat as they can eliminate organisms which serve important ecological roles (e.g. herbivorous fish which keep algae in-check on the reefs).


Do lionfish have any predators in Florida waters?

Lionfish do not appear to have any predators in Florida waters, although some grouper species have been observed to eat them. 


How big do lionfish get?

Lionfish can grow to 15 inches but are usually not more than a foot long. They reach full adult size at about 2 years. 


How often do lionfish reproduce?