USDA National Wildlife Research Center Symposia


Date of this Version

August 2007


Published in: Witmer, G. W., W. C. Pitt, and K. A. Fagerstone, editors. 2007. Managing vertebrate invasive species: proceedings of an international symposium. USDA/APHIS Wildlife Services, National Wildlife Research Center, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA. Also available online at


Florida has more non-native wildlife species than any other state: 439 introduced species of fish, wildlife and marine organisms have been observed and at least 123 are established, i.e., highly unlikely to be extirpated without human intervention. Florida is an epicenter for non-native species with a long established pet industry, major tourist attractions, and major ports, primarily Miami. The large number of established species is due to climate match with that of popular tropical pets, habitat disturbance that facilitates invasion, and a depauperate vertebrate fauna in tropical and subtropical portions of Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s approach to managing non-native wildlife is based on (1) encouraging responsible pet ownership; (2) a regulated industry is preferable to underground traffic; and (3) most introduced species have negligible environmental impacts. Regulations for captive wildlife and non-native aquatic species, first established in the 1970s, employ risk-based bio-security for problematic species, and prohibition of a limited number of species that posed unacceptable risks to the ecosystem, economy, or human health and safety. Effective January 1, 2008, owners of six large reptile species will be required to implant passive integrated transponders to identify individual animals. Although anecdotal evidence suggests dealers have released inventories to establish source populations, the majority of introductions have resulted from release of pets by owners. To close this pathway, a pet surrender network is in the early stages of development. Within the past five years, capacity to detect and manage terrestrial and semi-aquatic species has improved, including surveillance, rapid assessment and response; examples include the Gambian giant pouched rat (Cricetomys gambianus), purple swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio), and Argentine black and white tegu (Tupinambis merianae).