Iguanas and Lizards
Exotic Snakes
Exotic Birds
Other Exotic Animals
The Book
Students & Teachers

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida is the adopted home of:
  • 48 species of reptiles
  • 4 species of amphibians
  • 157 species of birds
  • 27 species of mammals
  • 34 species of freshwater fish and 1 species of marine fish of special concern
  • Iguana Invasion

    Exotic Pets Gone Wild in Florida

    and what to do about them

    Common Green Iguana

    Why Are They Here?

    There are more than 200 species of exotic animals living and breeding in the state of Florida. Most of these animals were once pets, or they are the offspring of pets. Once they escape or are set free by pet owners, many non-native animals find Florida a great place to live.

    There is plenty of vegetation here for animals to consume and, because of the lush year-round plant growth, there are lots of insects and birds, rodents and other edible creatures. Our waterways are full of fish, algae and plants. Florida winters are mild, enabling all sorts of species to survive in the wild. Animal species native to tropical climates can live and breed throughout the year here. This is especially true in South Florida, where the temperature rarely dips below 40 degrees.

    Python and gator
    Photo courtesy of Lori Oberhofer, National Park Service

    Why is it Such a Big Problem Now?

    Non-native animals have been living in Florida for a long time. However, over the past 30 to 40 years, the pet trade has been bringing an increasing variety of animals into the state. Many of these species do not make good pets, so untold numbers of unwanted animals have been "set free," dumped in our parks and lakes. Many of these animals have died, but others have survived, breeding over the years, reproducing enough to overpopulate. These animals dominate certain ecosystems and, as most exotics do, they tend to take over in areas where the native habitat has been destroyed by development. Florida suffers from overdevelopment, and exotic invasion is one of the serious long-term consequences.

    The national media has begun to spotlight exotic pets on the loose, especially those species that have become invasive and destructive. There are more of these animals now, and they are more menacing. They are displacing native animals, competing for their food and nest sites, preying on them or taking over their territories. Invasive species are altering Florida’s unique ecosystem and creating unhealthy imbalances.

    Invasive species will continue to thrive in the Florida landscape because they have no natural predators here. Without predators to keep their populations in check, the exotic species populations will keep on increasing. After decades of growth, species populations can reach crucial levels where it seems like, almost overnight, the number of animals explodes.

    Currently, this is the case with the annoying Common Green Iguanas and Black Spinytail Iguanas in many regions around South Florida. In the Everglades and some of the Keys, the populations of a giant snake called the Burmese Python are growing exponentially. And on Florida’s west coast, the increasing number of huge African lizards called Nile Monitors is becoming a problem. Florida also has flocks of exotic parrots, gangs of Muscovy Ducks, troops of escaped monkeys, and other failed pets on the loose in our parks and waterways, suburban lakes and backyard trees. Whoever said Florida was dull?

    What Should We Do About Them?

    If you live here, you may find that you are asking yourself these kinds of questions:
    • what do I do with the exotic animals on my property?
    • what do I do if I spot a dangerous exotic animal?
    • when should I call in a wildlife trapper for help?
    • is it okay to kill off the exotic wildlife if it is bothersome or threatening?
    Florida backyard

    This site does not introduce you to all of the exotic species in Florida. However, you can use the information on these pages to help you:
    • identify the most common/problematic exotic species
    • keep them out of your yard
    • deal with them humanely when you come across them
    • appreciate these animals for their wild beauty and power
    • stay safe
    No matter how many animals are inhumanely and illegally shot, poisoned, frozen, burned and drowned, most of the exotic species living in our state today will survive our attempts to destroy them. By the time we notice them, their numbers are so large that there is little to be done. We might as well face it: these critters are here to stay. After all, it must not be easy for them either. The non-native animals must share the beautiful land and water of Florida with the most destructive of all exotic species: humans.

    Website by FCE Web Design

    New book:

    Iguana Invasion! Exotic Pets Gone Wild in Florida

    by Virginia Aronson and Allyn Szejko

    Available at your local bookseller, Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, and Pineapple Press.

    Book CoverFind out more here.

    Click here to view a really cool trailer!