Florida is a state widely known for its numerous and voracious invasive species that you can see anywhere you look. Even on and around NSU’s own campus, you can find many different invasive species. Here are some facts about some of the most prominent invasive species, along with some suggestions for Florida residents on how to help combat the spread of invasive species throughout their nonnative habitat.
The Green Iguana
Often known simply as the “iguana,” the Green Iguana is a reptile native to Central America, South America and the Caribbean. This animal lives all around Florida and is prominent here at NSU. When many students first come here, they assume iguanas are native to Florida because of how common they are. However, this could not be further from the truth. Green Iguanas all over Florida – mostly South Florida – eat residential flora, destroy landscaping and leave infectious droppings on furniture, pool decks, lawns and the like. Through their feces, they can even transmit salmonella. Recently, they’ve been posing a more dangerous threat.
“So many of our natural water paths – the Everglades, for example, which used to be [a] huge sheet of water in the central part of the state – now has all been channeled into these canals, which is bad enough. But now we have the green iguanas that are burrowing in, and they’re actually undermining the stability in those canals,” said David Kerstetter, an associate professor in the department of marine environmental science.
These iguanas eat mostly native Floridian vegetation and pose a threat to the native species that use the vegetation they consume as habitation, such as the endangered Miami Blue butterfly.
You may have seen these geese around campus – and as it turns out, they are invasive. Native to sub-saharan Africa, where they pose problems to farmers, they are known for causing widespread destruction to crops and are known as one of the most common exotic birds found in Florida. Males can be quite aggressive while mating, so if it’s ever necessary to remove the bird, calling a Wildlife Removal Company is recommended.
They are also known for defecating in recreational waters and in public areas, posing a possibility for health issues to humans.
Although not seen at NSU, the Vervet Monkey has been a serious problem in South Florida since the 1950s, when they were released into the wild from a tourist attraction. They are originally from Southern and East Africa. Attracted to food whenever they can get it, they are extremely opportunistic feeders and feed on the ground or in trees whenever possible. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has made it illegal to directly feed these monkeys, which includes placing garbage bins in areas directly accessible to them. Vervet monkeys can also carry transmittable diseases such as Herpes B.
Kerstetter said the main way people can help is by being responsible and not releasing their pets into the wild.
If you or someone you know owns exotic pets they may no longer want, surrender the animal through the FWC Exotic Pet Amnesty Program. Through this, owners may turn in their exotic pets no questions asked, with no fees, whether they were obtained legally or illegally. Once turned in, the FWC finds new owners who have all the correct permits, habitats etc. to properly care for exotic animals, making sure that they are still taken care of.