FWC uses teamwork to manage exotic species, improve habitat
As I See It
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Media contact: Rodney Barreto
Florida is home to many exotic species. The Florida Fish and
Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) works with our partners and
the public to manage the animals and plants that don't belong
Education is one tool. Recently, the FWC participated in
Invasive Species Awareness Week. The nationwide event promoted a
greater awareness of nonnative animals and plants and their impacts
on our environment.
Making the right decisions is another tool. On Saturday, March
12, the FWC will host the fifth annual Nonnative Pet Amnesty Day at
Zoo Miami. Dozens of exotic pet owners will do the responsible,
ethical thing at the event by surrendering their animals. I know it
will be a difficult decision to give up their beloved pets, but
they will have done the right thing. FWC staff makes every effort
to place the surrendered animals with qualified adopters. In the
past, people have turned in all kinds of nonnative critters - the
majority being snakes and other reptiles.
Science plays a big part. Earlier this month, the FWC and its
partners surveyed a small area in western Miami-Dade County where
Northern African pythons have shown up. Surveyors slogged through
marsh and trekked through thick, heavy brush to find these
nonnative snakes or any evidence of them. FWC biologists routinely
survey these areas to stop the species from spreading. Since 2009,
at least 20 Northern African pythons have been removed from the
Besides nonnative animals, Florida also needs to manage
nonnative plants. FWC staff periodically treats Florida's waterways
to manage invasive, exotic, aquatic plants such as hydrilla, water
hyacinth and water lettuce. Hydrilla, especially, can spread easily
throughout the state's lakes and rivers by hitchhiking rides on
boats. It clogs waterways, making recreational activities difficult
or impossible, and it chokes out beneficial native plants.
One of the best science-based methods the FWC uses to control
the spread of invasive plants is prescribed fire. FWC biologists
recently completed a large burn in the Everglades. The fires
eliminated undesirable, overgrown vegetation, and created access
for future exotic vegetation removal. The result is improved
habitat for our fish and wildlife.
The FWC continues to manage Florida's valuable native resources
in the face of entrenched nonnative species and the threat of other
plants or animals becoming established. We don't do this alone. We
Anglers help us deal with illegally introduced fish. While our
goal is to prevent new exotic fish from entering Florida's
waterways, that's not always possible, so FWC biologists develop
management practices for these unwanted fish. One management tool
for illegally introduced fish is to encourage anglers to fish for
exotics. The FWC recently certified a blue tilapia caught in the
St. Lucie River as the largest ever caught recreationally in
Florida. It weighed nearly 10 pounds and broke the world
Hunters in Florida also help the FWC manage natural resources in
the presence of exotics. Licensed hunters may harvest wild hogs, a
nonnative species, year-round on private property with landowner
permission. Hunters may also harvest wild hogs from wildlife
management areas during specific seasons.
Additionally, licensed hunters may take nonnative reptiles, such
as the Burmese python and Nile monitor lizard, from areas around
the Everglades during specific hunting seasons.
You can help protect our natural resources by never releasing an
exotic critter into the wild.
Not only is releasing nonnatives into the wild illegal, it can
be harmful to our native fish and wildlife. In some cases, exotic
critters will actually feed on our native fish and wildlife.
Nonnatives can quickly become a nuisance. Some spread disease. Some
Each of us can make a difference and help protect natural
Florida. Please report fish and wildlife law violators to the FWC's
Wildlife Alert hotline, 888-404-FWCC.