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


Prevention is the best policy for dealing with introduced species. However, biologists often spend an inordinate amount of time studying their spread and impacts rather than focusing on what should be done to thwart their establishment in the first place. Amphibian and reptile introductions are reaching epidemic proportions in Florida, largely due to irresponsible behavior by pet owners and the pet industry, but also due to ineffective preventive policies and actions. Prevention of additional amphibian and reptile introductions in Florida will require a comprehensive approach involving legal restrictions of certain problematic species, a massive public education effort, and a well-funded and staffed Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) program. EDRR is not a novel concept, but it needs to be newly applied to amphibian and reptile introductions where pathways are firmly established and propagule pressure is intense. An effective EDRR program in Florida will require (1) significant funding and political will, (2) a comprehensive stakeholder education and public outreach program, (3) a vast network of expert early detectors, (4) a team of talented rapid responders, and (5) rigorous post-project assessment. Knowledge gained from such a program in Florida could easily be extended to other taxonomic groups and locations.