Saturday, June 19, 2010

Invasive species look nice but pose threat

By Laura Pitts

If you're ever explored the outdoors in Florida, you’re probably aware of an animal that doesn’t quite seem to fit. Bright green against dirt, the green iguana looks like something that belongs in a tropical rainforest rather than your backyard.

These animals are becoming more common because of the release of unwanted pets. These animals may seem harmless, but are a serious issue for the environment.

“Iguanas start out small and cute,” said Steve Johnson, assistant professor of wildlife ecology at the University of Florida. “But, they grow to be quite large, aggressive and difficult to handle.”

Some pet owners’ first response is to release the animal. While this may seem like the best option, this will most likely kill the animal. In other cases, the pet will survive and reproduce, creating a non-native species.

Invasive species are everywhere, with around 50 non-native species in South Florida alone. They arrive in different ways, from the releasing of pets to coming in with cargo. In Florida, as well as most places in the world, they have a negative ecological and economic impact, as well as being nuisances.

“Just last night, my girlfriend called me and told me that a Cuban Tree Frog jumped on her shoulder as she was walking through her door,” Johnson said.

Cuban Tree Frogs were brought into Florida through cargo ships from Cuba, and are a harm to the environment. They are known for crawling into power equipment and causing short circuits, costing power companies’ money to have them replaced.

Invasive species are an organism not native to the area, introduced by people. They are a potential danger to the environment and economy.

“They come without natural predators,” said Jim Cuda, professor of biological weed control.

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