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Are there other invasive reptiles in the country that people should be concerned about?

Invasive animal species are a rapidly increasing environmental and economic problem in the United States. According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service records, legal wildlife shipments into the United States between 1999 and 2010 comprised over 2.8 billion individual exotic animals, representing at least 4,200 different species from over 150 countries.


Florida now has the dubious distinction of having the largest number of established non-indigenous reptile and amphibian species in the entire world. Fifty-six are established including 3 frogs, 4 turtles, 1 crocodilian, 43 lizards and 5 snakes.


Any animal can be problematic when released in places where it is not native. The safest policy is to find an appropriate home for any animal that is no longer wanted because disposal or release in the wild can do great environmental harm. For example, the brown treesnake was introduced to the American island of Guam shortly after World War II; it has decimated the native birds, mammals and lizards of Guam, such that only a few small species remain. Fifty years after the snake was introduced, Guam had lost 10 of its 12 native forest birds, all of its bats and about half of its native lizards. Since some of these animals dispersed the seeds of native plants, the plants, too, are declining.


The python introduction to Florida is so recent that the full ramifications of its introduction on Florida’s unique native plants, animals and ecosystems cannot yet be made, although research suggests that impacts may be pervasive for some animal groups. Similarly, it is too early to determine if the three watersnake species introduced into California (including one species from Florida) will result in any extinctions of native species there.                                         


Free-ranging snakes representing dozens of species from around the world are discovered in the United States in any given year, usually as a result of escapees or releases from the pet trade or pet owners, but most of these don’t appear to have established reproductive populations.


It is highly likely that additional species of invasive reptiles (for example, Nile monitors, Argentine tegus) already established in Florida outside of Everglades National Park will spread in coming years. The known densities of these species in their native ranges, combined with the fact that they are novel predators that native species may not sense as dangerous, suggest that they also may exert detrimental effects on native species not adapted to these kinds of predators, as well as harming the ecosystems they live in.

Tags: Pythons