Zetekitoxin 2007-11-09 17:35:55
Today’s New York Times had this article, along with a picture of
an alligator eating a Burmese Python:
Forget the Gators: Exotic Pets Run Wild in Florida
By ABBY GOODNOUGH
Published: February 29, 2004
MIAMI, Feb. 28 Burmese pythons are wrestling alligators in the Everglades. African monitor lizards,
ill tempered and up to seven feet long, are splashing through canals in Cape Coral. Vervet monkeys hang
around a car rental lot near Fort Lauderdale; South American monk parakeets wreak havoc on power lines;
Cuban tree frogs have colonized everywhere, gobbling native frogs as they go.
The southern end of Florida, the most tropical state outside Hawaii, is teeming with exotic beasts. As
if alligators, panthers and other native creatures were not enough, the steamy swamps, murky waterways
and lush tree canopies here are a paradise for furry, scaly, clawed, fanged and otherwise off-putting
things that have no business roaming this side of the equator.
“This stuff doesn’t happen in New Jersey, it doesn’t happen in Ohio, but in South Florida it happens
constantly,” said Todd Hardwick, whose trapping business, Pesky Critters, gets 60 calls a day from
people with peacocks on their roofs, caimans in their driveways and iguanas in their tool sheds.
“Miami-Dade County is probably ground zero for exotic animals that are on the loose and doing very
More imported animals are flown to Miami than any other American city but New York and Los Angeles.
Breeders, dealers and owners of exotic pets abound. And when pet lovers find their boa constrictor or
spinytail iguana has outgrown its cage, or they move or meet a mate who will not abide anteaters,
piranhas or prairie dogs, South Florida presents the perfect dumping ground.
“Any place the public perceives as a large, wild, junglelike environment, that’s where you’ll see them,”
said Mr. Hardwick, who said he once caught a 22-foot reticulated python under a house in Fort
Lauderdale, where it had retreated after swallowing a raccoon. “Miami is a fast, disposable society,
which means whatever is the hot pet today will be my catch of the day next week.”
Witness the Nile monitor lizard, dagger-clawed, blue-tongued and voracious. Monitors have multiplied so
quickly in the maze of man-made canals around Cape Coral, a fast-growing city on the southwest coast,
that a scientist at the University of Tampa won grants last year to study their ecological impact.
Thirty-nine monitors have been caught and killed in the region since summer, said Kenneth Krysko, a
University of Florida herpetologist assisting with the project.
“There’s no question they are expanding their range,” Dr. Krysko said. “They are scaring the heck out of
residents, there’s no question about that.” He said the lizards end up abandoned because many pet
dealers do not warn buyers how big and difficult they get.
“Any child can go to a pet store and buy a hatchling for $10,” Dr. Krysko said. “It’s really sad,
because this is such a beautiful lizard, just a magnificent species. But no one realizes the ability
this animal has to tear off your cat’s head with one twist.”
Scientists say the lizards do not pose a danger to humans unless they are cornered.
Cape Coral residents also worry that monitors are eating the eggs of burrowing owls, an endangered
species that nests in the ground and is abundant, and beloved, in the area. But Dr. Krysko said it was
too early to tell, since scientists have not yet examined monitors’ stomach contents (the captured
lizards are in deep freeze for now).
While Florida has become hypervigilant about the spread of invasive plants and trees like Brazilian
pepper and Australian pine, it has been slower to address the problem of non-native animals, said Skip
Snow, a wildlife biologist at Everglades National Park.
“When you’re talking about things that move around, it’s harder to detect them and harder to do
something about it,” he said. “There has not been an organized campaign to remind people it’s not just
against the law but terrible for the environment to release these things.”
Nor is the pet industry a reliable partner in controlling exotic animals, because many dealers are not
knowledgeable, said Jim Stinebaugh, a federal wildlife inspector at Miami International Airport.
Slither factor 2007-11-09 17:36:40
The link sent me to a site that wanted me to sign up as a member. Thank you
for the thought, but I get enough spam/junk mail as it is…..
Anyway, in regards to the story you attached. You want my opinion, I say all
people in south Florida ought to move out, and let the Feds turn it into a
reptile park! LOL
Here is an interesting (and more serious) post-script to the story though.
The Federal Wildlife inspector quoted at the end of the article:
“Nor is the pet industry a reliable partner in controlling exotic animals,
because many dealers are not knowledgeable”.
I am trying to find the article, and will post it when I do; but I was
reading somewhere (I forget if it was on-line or in print) that the
wetlands/marshes surrounding Miami International Airport is teaming with
many such animals.
A investigation determined that many of the inspectors themselves were
letting these animals go in the surrounding area to reduce their workload
and the amount of paperwork required when seizing these animals.
Cindy 2007-11-09 17:36:42
Very interesting, thanks!
Chris mcmartin 2007-11-09 17:36:44
summer, said Kenneth Krysko, a
Kenny owes me a paper! He was doing some study on kingsnakes and I sent him
a pic to use. I better hound him some more.
Zetekitoxin 2007-11-09 17:36:46
I was afraid of that, which is why I attached the article too.
See how I’m always lookin’ out for you?
Florida – our newest and largest free-range zoo. I like it. Think
ecological experiments we could do!
Yeesh. I would like to read that article if you could find it.
I wonder if charges were pressed?
Kinda sad considering that these are the people who should best
understand the implications of their actions.
Warrigal 2007-11-09 17:36:55
http://bugmenot.com/ is great for these type of sites, just cut and paste
the url and press the button
Rabidg 2007-11-09 17:37:47
that site is so cool.
Zetekitoxin 2007-11-09 17:38:16
Ooooooooh. I like!
C1c0 2007-11-09 18:07:47
WOW, I like that!
Impx 2007-11-09 23:48:24
This sort of thing disgusts me. I cannot believe people can be so stupid as
to purchase an animal that they have no intention of keeping and sustaining.
I’m all for personal choice and personal freedom, but one must be
responsible for the choices they make. If they purchase a Nile monitor then
they have the responsiblity of looking after it. Much like having children –
these days if one finds themselves pregnant they can opt for abortion if
they are incapable or unwilling to raise a child, that is fine by me and it
also helps society enormously – personal choice and personal responsiblity
go hand in hand perfectly and they also create a sense of wellbeing because
people must live with their choices when they are entirely their own. When
government takes away choices then you create a mess – that’s what Stalinist
Russia did, that’s what N*** Germany did, and that’s what Australia looks
like it’s going to do anytime soon – they took the private lives of citizens
into their hands and interfered with very important freedoms – three perfect
examples are the right to keep and bear arms (for the protection of self and
family), the right to abortion (safe and legal reproductive choices) and the
right to death with dignity (via the use of strong barbiturates to
The right to own animals follows close behind.
I don’t CARE whether some people “do not approve” of exotic animals. They
are here to stay and they will stay. And I don’t CARE what excuses those
“people” come up with because as far as I’m concerned they are not people,
they are tyrants who would wish to force their views onto others WITHOUT
their consent and would gladly take away your freedom if they somehow
managed to gravitate to a position with governmental powers to do so.
I’m all for keeping exotic animals in Australia even non-native stuff like
kingsnakes and cornsnakes and boas and leapoard geckos. If someone is found
to have released animals into the wild he or she can be fined up to $66,000
by Environment Australia (formerly called Department of The Environment and
That is how it should be. You should be allowed keep anything you like (with
a license/registration) and then if you fail to obey the rules (such as
letting animals loose into the Australian environment-which I must admit is
quite amenable to exotic fauna) you cop the penalties – and believe me they
would be SEVERE.
Cape Coral. Vervet monkeys hang
parakeets wreak havoc on power lines;
teeming with exotic beasts. As
in South Florida it happens
gets 60 calls a day from
iguanas in their tool sheds.
the loose and doing very
New York and Los Angeles.
find their boa constrictor or
that’s where you’ll see them,”
under a house in Fort
voracious. Monitors have multiplied so
city on the southwest coast,
summer, said Kenneth Krysko, a
“They are scaring the heck out of
no one realizes the ability
area. But Dr. Krysko said it was
them and harder to do
remind people it’s not just
because many dealers are not
Lukecampbell 2007-11-10 01:49:23
It is really only a matter of time before salvators become established,
too. I wonder what will happen when the salvators start encountering
the Niles. My guess is that the salvators will suppress the Niles,
since Niles are specialized more for dealing with hard shelled food
while salvators have more adaptations for feeding on large vertebrates
(such as Nile monitors) and are bigger than Niles as well. You might
get some interesting habitat partitioning going on after a while, with
the hardier Niles being driven to less desirable habitats (I think
something similar happens where salvator and mangrove monitors’ ranges
overlap, but I’d have to look at my books at home to be sure).
The scary thing about the salvators is that they have a high tolerance
for salt water, unlike Niles, and are also exceptional swimmers. Once
they become established in Florida, I’d expect them to move to the
Caribbean islands and down the Atlantic coast of Central and South
America, possibly colonizing the Amazon river basin. At Panama they may
be able to cross over to the Pacific coast as well.
To email me, take out the trash.
Snakeladysfarm 2007-11-10 02:55:06
Thanks Z! I knew if read long enough I’d find a herp post;^) snake lady
“Medicine to produce health has to examine disease” Plutarch