U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Herp Alliance and USDA/WS/National Wildlife Research Center APHIS cooperative agreement 13-7412-0965-RA


Copyright 2016 Richard Engeman and Michael L. Avery


Florida has more introduced animals than any other region of the U.S. and also ranks high in this respect globally. Given Florida's climate, it is no coincidence that a large proportion of Florida’s invasive vertebrate species are reptiles and amphibians. Exotic snakes, lizards, frogs, turtles, and crocodilians are all breeding in Florida. The largest snakes in Florida are constrictors from other continents, and the five largest lizard species breeding in Florida are from Africa, South America, and Central America. Establishment of non-native reptiles and amphibians has been documented in Florida for over 135 years, and the rate of invasive reptile species establishment has been accelerating in the last half century. Florida currently has 16 native lizard species compared to 43 invasive species of lizard established and breeding in the state.

Florida's subtropical climate in the south, its major ports of entry for many wildlife species to the U.S. (both legal and illegal), its thriving captive wildlife industry, and its location in an area of destructive hurricanes that can release captive animals make the state particularly susceptible to the introduction and establishment of a wide range of species. Moreover, Florida is isolated from land with similar climates, resulting in the state's vertebrates typically originating in the southeast U.S. at the southern extremes of their range. Invaders to Florida therefore find relatively fewer native species to contend with than in most tropical/subtropical locations.

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