FWC to Combat Invasive Species Threatening Environmental Harm

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is taking steps to combat the introduction and spread of these non-native animals.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is taking steps to combat the introduction and spread of these non-native animals. (Nile monitor lizard, FWC photo.)

SEBASTIAN – Florida’s native fish and wildlife are facing a serious threat posed by a variety of invasive species found throughout the state. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is taking steps to combat the introduction and spread of these non-native animals. Today, the Commission voted to approve a reorganization of rules related to non-native species.

In addition, the Commission requested FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton and Vice Chairman Robert Spottswood to work on a temporary executive order to limit the importation of potentially high-risk injurious species. This will act as a stopgap measure while the staff develops proposed rules.

“As we are in the process of rule development, we need an Executive Order in place to take the pressure off until we are ready to take the final action,” Spottswood told Sebastian Daily.

Invasive species are animals not native to Florida that cause economic or environmental harm or pose a threat to human safety. More than 500 non-native species have been reported in Florida. Eighty percent of these have been introduced via the live animal trade with over 120 established in Florida, meaning they are reproducing in the wild.

“It costs much less to prevent a species from becoming established than it does to control them once they are here,” said Commissioner Joshua Kellam. “What we need to do as a Commission is focus on prevention early on to stop the next wave of invasive species.”

Although invasive species are not a problem unique to Florida, the state’s subtropical climate allows a variety of species, such as pythons, Argentine black and white tegus, green iguanas, monitor lizards, and many invasive freshwater fish species, to thrive.

Most non-native fish and wildlife find their way into Florida’s habitats through escape or release from the live animal trade. Therefore, regulation is an essential component to prevent non-native species from taking hold in Florida’s environment.

“We are taking proactive steps through regulation to address those species that pose the highest risk to Florida of becoming tomorrow’s invasive species problem,” said Kipp Frohlich, Director of the FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation. “Actions we take today can prevent other species from becoming established and help avoid problems similar to the ones caused by Burmese python.”

The public can help the FWC control non-native invasive wildlife by reporting sightings to the FWC’s Exotic Species Hotline at 888-IveGot1 (888-483-4681), online at IVEGOT1.org or by using the free smartphone app IVEGOT1.

The FWC also encourages the public to safely remove non-native invasive species from the wild when possible. Non-native species are not protected, except by anti-cruelty law, and can be humanely killed on private lands at any time with landowner permission ­no permit required. People may also lethally remove non-native reptiles from 22 FWC-managed public lands without a license or permit.

For more information, visit FWC’s Non-native Species in Florida website.

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About Andy Hodges
Andy Hodges grew up in Jupiter, Florida where he began his career in radio and TV broadcasting for over 12 years. He would make a career change to computer programming. Andy spent seven years working for tech companies in Atlanta before moving to Indian River County in 2002. He returned to the news sector in 2005 as a writer. Andy joined Sebastian Daily in 2016 as our editor in chief.