Top 10 Invasive Species in Boca Raton
If someone looked at a map of the planet and found the equator, they would find the dividing line that not only separates our hemispheres, but sets the bar for wildlife diversity. It is a known fact that the further from the poles and the closer to the equator, the more biodiversity one experiences. The frigid climates of the northernmost and southernmost regions of our planet do not provide cold-blooded inhabitants with a climate for survival, nor optimal for lush plant life. Biologists call this concept the LDG, or latitudinal diversity gradient, and it is the broadest indicator of biodiversity patterns noted on earth. As the southernmost state in the United States and a major draw for foreign businesses, visitors and exotic pet owners, Florida is a great place to harbor invasive species from Burma to Belize and almost everywhere. between the two. Learn about 10 of these invasive species and what to watch out for if you come across one in the wild or on your doorstep.
Apart from the now notorious green iguana, the cane toad is one of the most common invasive species in the world. The South and Central American native has long been a common thread in our doorways, driveways, front yards and…everywhere else too.
Warning: keep your pets away, because when they are bitten, they secrete a poison that is often fatal to animals. They are not dangerous for humans.
The green iguana was once exclusive to our high school biology classrooms. Thanks to careless pet owners who released these reptilians over the years, they have now flooded virtually every tree, waterfront property, and backyard in America. Although they have scared off some of our shyest residents and can get a bit large, these herbivores are harmless to humans, but still should not be handled.
Yes, these absolutely magnificent birds are invasive. These natives of South Asia have been exported for millennia thanks to their magnificent plumage – functioning as wandering lawn ornaments for the wealthy. First imported to Hawai’i in 1860, these birds are hardier than they look, with populations found everywhere from Wyoming to southern Florida and even southern British Columbia. . Although visually beautiful, they shed all over and have one of the most horrifying cries known to man.
The lionfish is a venomous but picturesque invader of the Indo-Pacific region that has been spotted in the Mediterranean, Adriatic and Caribbean seas. Since arriving in the North Atlantic just 3 decades ago, they have wreaked havoc on local species and the coral reefs that are so integral to our ecosystem. Hunters loved them for their meat, which is an advantage when fighting this species.
Beware: the lionfish has dorsal spines that are venomous. The sting can cause intense pain and sweating, but is not known to be fatal.
Bullseye snake head
Native to South Asia (see a theme here?), the Bullseye Snakehead is one of many species of snakeheads that have made the journey to the southeastern United States. They grow faster than most species of their genus and have been cultivated due to their excellent taste and lack of fine bones to work with. Although the Sci-Fi Channel has had fun with these fish, there are no reports of snakehead fish posing any danger to humans, except for rare reports of Giant Snakehead acting aggressively near their nests.
Africanized killer bees
It was a bit scary to hear about growing up in the 90s, but they still pose a threat to humans, although they are primarily harmful to the ecosystem rather than us. Their name gives their origin, but unlike the others on this list, these bees were the by-product of a breeding program gone wrong. Also known as the Killer Bee, they have been responsible for more than 1,000 deaths since their first escape from quarantine in Brazil in 1957.
Beware: attacks by Africanized killer bees are extremely rare, but they are aggressive in defending their hives. Stay away if a hive has been spotted and contact a professional.
The Burmese python is one of Florida’s most notorious invasive species. With no natural predators, this massive beast battled the alligator for swamp supremacy. Although sightings in the suburbs are rare, any sightings should be reported immediately. As their name suggests, they originated in Burma (now Myanmar). Their presence is mostly attributed to careless pet owners who release them into the wild.
Beware: Burmese pythons can kill pets and are capable of growing large enough to prey on humans, although contact in civilization is extremely rare, with attacks even rarer.
Have you ever walked outside after a deluge and seen strange slimy fish waddling side by side on the sidewalk? We all wondered the same thing when we first encountered the catfish walking near sewers and gutters during midsummer showers: What is this thing?! Although walking more like a shimmy or squirm, these air-breathing catfish were first reported in Broward County in 1967 and are commonly seen in the Everglades, although their population has declined these last years.
The mustard-colored Oscar is a South American escapee from the aquarium industry and can now be found in canals and reservoirs throughout South Florida. Over the years, they have become one of the most popular freshwater fish, despite the state record standing at a grayling over 2.34 pounds (caught in Lake Okeechobee). Although they pose no danger to humans, the fin rays passing through their dorsal region can be extremely sharp and are thrown out when the Oscar feels threatened. Handle with Care!
The Nile monitor is another byproduct of pet owners that we would like to describe in words that don’t fit Champagne & Parisi’s class. The Nile Monitor emerged from the Nile to be washed up by the pet system and launched into the Everglades. On April 29, 2021, the The Nile monitor has been added to the list of prohibited species by the FWC. This semi-aquatic lizard is a floater, can use its back as a rudder for swimming, and is also an excellent climber. They have established populations in Lee and Palm Beach counties, and sightings have also been reported in Broward County.
Should I be worried about moving to Florida?
Nope! Just as Colorado has bears, Arizona has giant centipedes, and California has…people, Florida’s native and non-native wildlife should be understood, respected, and treated with care. Our flora and fauna should never be an obstacle to seeking a better life wherever you choose to be.
For more on Wild Boca Raton – see below…
Resist Mosquitoes in Boca Raton | 5 Poisonous Animals and Predators Native to Boca Raton