From Pets to Pests

Invasive species can destroy ecosystems and they are often introduced by your average, every-day pet owner. For example, the Burmese python has been found in the Florida wilds fighting alligators and was first introduced to the region through the exotic pet trade. These imported animals compete with natural species for resources and can sometimes have devastating effects on an ecosystem ill equipped to handle them.

There are 56 non-native species of reptiles and amphibians established in Florida alone, 84% of which arrived due to the pet trade, according to research done by the University of Florida. Lionfish, native to the Pacific Ocean, have now been found in the Atlantic off the coasts of Georgia, Florida and North Carolina. Once these species take root, they are extremely difficult to get rid of.

Snakehead fish and walking catfish have been sold at pet stores and are a growing problem in the U.S. These fish have the ability to “walk” across land from one body of water to another, making them particularly difficult to contain. They can breathe air and survive on land for up to four days. They have no natural enemies outside their native Southeast Asia. Snakeheads have been established in the Potomac River since 2004 and are spreading to the great lakes. Walking Catfish have been found across Florida waterways.

Additional Resources

YouTube Python vs. Alligator: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfYAj1k9uZM

Live Science Exotic Pets Turn Invasive: http://www.livescience.com/16204-florida-invasive-reptiles-amphibians.html

Detroit Free Press Feds Charge 2 With Selling Snakehead Fish: http://www.freep.com/usatoday/article/55407110?odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7CFRONTPAGE%7Cp

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