National Invasive Species Awareness: beware and report

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Stefan Alvarez
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
What do you call a four legged animal that breeds rapidly and can destroy crops, kill livestock, and even kill people? Or a snake that can grow more than 20 feet long and eat just about anything? An invasive species, that’s what.

National Invasive Species Awareness Week is an annual observance when people all around the country take time to raise awareness and come up with solutions for the effects that non-native species of plants, animals, reptiles, fish, and insects can have on local communities and ecosystems.

Florida in particular is a hot spot for invasive species issues, with Everglades National Park being a popular location for people to release their exotic and foreign pets into the wild, often causing chaos.

Burmese Pythons are one of the most prevalent invasive species that are well-established in the Everglades from previous owners releasing them. They are an apex predator in Florida, meaning their population is not naturally controlled and they are eating animals that may be on the endangered species list.

Population isn’t the only concern, however. Since the population isn’t controlled, they are breeding rapidly and even cross breeding with other pythons creating hybrid snakes that are even larger and more adaptable.

One other noteworthy and dangerous pest in Florida is the Lionfish.

Lionfish are native to Indonesia and were brought over to Florida as exotic pets. In a similar situation like the pythons, they were released into open waters by former owners they began to breed and feast on everything, unchecked by any predators.

Lionfish have 18 venomous spines on their backs and the ability to eat 30 times their stomach volume, they prey on nearly everything and breed faster than any of Florida’s native fish. This means that they eat Florida’s natural marine life at unprecedented rates, which are faster than the native species can reproduce.

There are several ways to help control invasive populations and prevent new ones from wreaking havoc. Education and getting familiar with invasive species in the local area is one of the more important ways.

Contacting local wildlife control once you have identified an invasive species will help to steer you in the right direction. Some local businesses like dive shops organize events to teach catching, cleaning and cooking invasive species.

Species that are currently endangered will be further at risk, or worse, if apex predators have free reign to reproduce and hunt. It’s vital to the native wildlife in Florida as well as other parts of the world that invasive species are controlled and prevented.