invasive species

Dansar / flickr

Burmese pythons, lionfish, african land snails -- these are just a few of the invasive species considered threats to Florida ecosystems. And the fact that you really can't snuggle with serpent, a venomous fish or a disease-carrying mollusk perhaps makes them easier to eradicate.

But what does Florida do about a potential invader that's a little on the cute side?


UPDATE: If you think you've spotted  a New Guinea flatworm in your area, the recommendation is to not touch it, take a picture of it and report it to state wildlife officials at 888-IVE-GOT1.

An invasive flatworm could potentially threaten wildlife, and even people in Southwest Florida. The New Guinea Flatworm was first found in the state near Miami more than a year ago. Now, they’ve popped up in Cape Coral, and most recently, Sanibel Island. 

Researchers are concerned about another nonnative species moving into Florida waters. Schools of the regal damselfish now live in coral reefs on the western side of the Gulf of Mexico. The fish are not harmful, but they could be a nuisance.

Sammy Mack / WLRN via Giphy

There’s a plot of land behind the swimming pool at Deerfield Beach High where science teacher Kelly Caputo points to a cluster of trees out in a field.

“You can see five large Australian pines,” says Caputo. “And as beautiful as they are, they’re non-native — they take up a lot of space, water — and if we do get heavy winds, they’re probably going to create a lot of damage.”

The Argentine black and white tegu is one of the newest, biggest threats to Florida’s natural wildlife. The large, invasive lizard was first noticed in the wild roughly 10 years ago. Now, it has two main breeding populations and biologists are trying to contain them. They want to stop tegus from becoming established throughout the state.

Bob DeGross, National Park Service / Bugwood.org

 

On Wednesday and Thursday, biologists from around South Florida gathered at the Long Key Nature Center in Davie for the annual Everglades Invasive Species Summit.

Rick Stone / WLRN

A big fear of state agriculture officials isn't a fear anymore. It's reality.

The giant African land snails that have plagued Miami-Dade County -- but only Miami-Dade County -- for three years have now spread to Broward County.

More than 128,000 Giant African Land Snails have been found and eradicated in the two years since the highly destructive creatures invaded the Miami-Dade area, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam says.

While it's too soon to declare victory, "we are confident that we will win this fight," Putnam adds.

Part of the credit, officials say, should go to "canine detector teams" that are sniffing out snails in places that are tough for humans to search.

Sammy Mack / WLRN

In the ongoing assault on invasive giant African land snails, Florida is ready to release the hounds.

Literally.

The state will be adding snail-sniffing dogs to its team of 50 full-time snail hunters.

RELATED: Dogs Prove To Be Key In Battle Against Giant African Snails

How To Make Stew With Giant African Land Snails

Aug 29, 2013
Andrew Derksen, Florida Cooperative Pest Survey Program

Editor's note: In the hunt for what to do about the various mix of invasive species found in Florida, we are running a series that not only describes the problems caused by these plants and animals but, well, offers a culinary solution. Tweet us (@WLRN) your ideas and tips or email us a recipe: WLRNMIA@gmail.com.

Courtesy of Jackson Landers

Jackson Landers grew up in a vegetarian household. Now he hunts and butchers much of his own meat. In the past five years, he's focused on hunting and eating invasive species.

In his book, Eating Aliens: One Man's Adventures Eating and Hunting Invasive Species, ​the 35-year-old Landers chronicles his travels around the country as he learns to hunt, butcher and eat various invasive species.

OceanGate, Inc.

A team of scientists from  around the country recently spent two days off the coast of South Florida to investigate the explosion of lionfish.

What they found was shocking. Why?

Because there’s a war going on and the indomitable lionfish are winning.

These voracious predators are known to invade the shallows of coral reef.  They’re dangerous because they ruin the habitat and eat juvenile spiny lobsters, snappers, groupers, tarpon and bonefish - all valuable marine species humans rely on.

With its pleasant climate, Florida has become home to more exotic and invasive species of plants and animals than any other state in the continental U.S. Some invasive species have been brought in deliberately, such as the Burmese python or the Cuban brown snail. But the majority of species are imported inadvertently as cargo.

Amanda Hodges, who heads the biosecurity research lab at the University of Florida, says that until recently, scientists saw about a dozen new bugs arrive in Florida each year.

Add 'Crazy Ants' To Growing List Of Florida Invasive Species

May 28, 2013
AZRainman / Flickr Creative Commons

The giant African land snail has competition in the "strange and destructive little invasive species" department. A report released last month by University of Texas scientists shows that "crazy ants" are "invading the southeastern United States and Texas" -- including Florida. 

Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission

Jason Leon said he has two regrets about slicing the head off the longest Burmese python recorded in Florida:

He wishes he didn’t have to slay the beast, and he wishes his bedroom walls were big enough to mount the snake’s skin.

“I’m actually really mad I had to kill it,” Leon, 23, said Monday.

“But at one point it coiled around both of my legs and my waist, and I wasn’t going to take a chance on letting that thing get to my neck.”

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