Pythons not Florida's only invasive animal problem

FILE PHOTO -- Ron Bergeron, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, handles a Burmese python during the kickoff of the 2013 Python Challenge at the University of Florida Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center on Saturday Jan. 12, 2013.

Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

FILE PHOTO -- Ron Bergeron, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, handles a Burmese python during the kickoff of the 2013 Python Challenge at the University of Florida Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center on Saturday Jan. 12, 2013.

In this Feb. 6, 2013 photo, a feral cat eats cat food from a box left by a cat lover behind a grocery store in Key Largo, Fla.

In this Feb. 6, 2013 photo, a feral cat eats cat food from a box left by a cat lover behind a grocery store in Key Largo, Fla.

In this Feb. 14 , 2013 photo taken at the University of Florida campus in Davie, Fla., a captured Cuban treefrog is on display.

In this Feb. 14 , 2013 photo taken at the University of Florida campus in Davie, Fla., a captured Cuban treefrog is on display.

In this Feb. 14 , 2013 photo taken at the University of Florida campus in Davie, Fla., a young captured tegu-lizard is on display.

In this Feb. 14 , 2013 photo taken at the University of Florida campus in Davie, Fla., a young captured tegu-lizard is on display.

KEY LARGO, Fla. — While hunters stalked the elusive Burmese python through Florida's Everglades over the past month, state and federal wildlife officials set traps for other animals menacing native wildlife in a fragile ecosystem.

The python gets most of the attention in Florida's animal kingdom and is accused of decimating populations of native mammals in the Everglades, but wildlife officials say other species including feral cats, black-and-white tegu lizards and Cuban tree frogs pose equally serious threats.

And while a state-organized Python Challenge was held this year, a Kitty Cat Challenge or Lizard Chase is unlikely. Killing or capturing feral cats would be controversial, and other species lack the daring appeal of pythons.

"A 'Cuban Tree Frog Challenge' wouldn't get anyone excited. I'm saying that in the context of understanding how humans respond to things," said Frank Mazzotti, a University of Florida professor of wildlife ecology who is helping the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission with the python hunt.

State wildlife officials say the monthlong python hunt that ended Sunday was a success in raising awareness about invasive species, even though the number of snakes killed idled at 50 in the hunt's last days. The final tally will be announced at an awards ceremony Saturday. Cash prizes will be awarded to the hunters who bagged the longest python and killed the most snakes.

No one knows for sure how many pythons live in the Everglades. Wildlife officials estimate about 10,000 to 100,000, but that's small compared with the several million feral and free-ranging cats believed to be stalking through Florida.

Those cats kill several million wild animals in Florida each year, hunting even when they're regularly fed, state officials say. At particular risk are small mammals and migratory birds that pass through the suburban areas where cats roam. Food laid out for cats also can attract raccoons and other wildlife, which can bring disease or disrupt nearby turtle and bird nests.

For the most part, the state leaves feral cat control to local authorities, some of whom promote managing cat populations through spaying or neutering but still allow the cats to roam.

State and federal officials discourage such trap-neuter-return programs because they don't protect native wildlife. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last month finalized a plan that includes setting traps for cats and other predators in national wildlife refuges in the Florida Keys, where cats are known to pounce on the dwindling populations of two endangered species, the Key Largo wood rat and the Lower Keys marsh rabbit.

Those mammals have lost habitat to development in the Keys, but predation by cats is their highest source of mortality, said Phillip Hughes, an ecologist with the federal wildlife agency in the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex, comprising four refuges that stretch from the waters off Key West to where Key Largo meets the Everglades.

"Those cats include cats from people's homes as well as feral and the whole spectrum of free-roaming cats," Hughes said.

"They're preying on some of these vulnerable, small animals at a faster rate than they can replace themselves with."

Native wildlife caught in the traps will be released, but invasive species such as pythons, Nile monitor lizards, armadillos or opossums will be euthanized. Cats that are caught will be transferred to a shelter. Cats elicited far more sympathy and attention in public comments to the plan than other invasive animals.

Overall, Florida is home to more exotic species of amphibians and reptiles than anywhere else in the world, say researchers whose goal is to keep them from becoming so numerous that they're considered established.

It's too late to go after some, such as the Cuban tree frog, because they're too numerous throughout the ecosystem, Mazzotti said.

But it might not be for the tegus, South American lizards that gorge on eggs and invade the burrows of the endangered gopher tortoise. The wildlife commission is working with partner agencies to trap tegus and a handful of other animals, hoping to control or eradicate their populations before they become significant threats.

But other troublesome species are as difficult to spot in the Everglades as the splotchy Burmese python.

"You talk about pythons being the tip of the invasive species iceberg — well, all the fish are under water, so there's no attention paid to their possible spread," Mazzotti said.

Officials say the best solution to Florida's invasive species problems starts long before traps are set or hunts begin. They advocate responsible pet ownership, hold amnesty days for relinquishing exotic animals and encourage people to report sightings to a hotline.

"It's not just about pythons," said Kristen Sommers, head of the wildlife commission's exotic species coordination section. "It's about addressing this holistic view of removing nonnative wildlife from our lands."

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Comments » 19

26yearsonmarco writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

No_more_cyber_bullying (Inactive) writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

26yearsonmarco writes:

in response to No_more_cyber_bullying:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

1Paradiselost writes:

Another invasive animal in this state is the Florida Tea Party Republican.

They take up space, eat our food, have no ideas, say NO to everything and produce nothing!

No_more_cyber_bullying (Inactive) writes:

A truly invasive species on Marco Island is the
liberal Deomcrat that wishes to live here but complains daily about what created the environment that keeps him/her safe from what causes those other Democratic strongholds of crime like Miami, Ft.Lauderdale and Ft. Myers to be what they are.

26yearsonmarco writes:

Let's see if the "Staff" finds a reason to remove this because they think it pertains to them:

http://naturalsociety.com/leading-gen...

1Paradiselost writes:

26.....

Good link... This is the this first time we agree!

FACT: Red (Republican) states have the most Illiterate Americans!

FACT: Blue (Democrat) States have the most educated Americans!

The link below is from FOX BUSINESS NEWS.. America's Right Wing news source.

http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-f...

Unfortunately facts prove 23% of this county is Illiterate.

BTW.. that 23% is called the "Republican Base" voter!

26yearsonmarco writes:

in response to 1Paradiselost:

26.....

Good link... This is the this first time we agree!

FACT: Red (Republican) states have the most Illiterate Americans!

FACT: Blue (Democrat) States have the most educated Americans!

The link below is from FOX BUSINESS NEWS.. America's Right Wing news source.

http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-f...

Unfortunately facts prove 23% of this county is Illiterate.

BTW.. that 23% is called the "Republican Base" voter!

WELCOME TO THE "STAFF" GROUP MENTALITY.

No_more_cyber_bullying (Inactive) writes:

in response to GorchFock:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Is that English or just plain jibberish. Only Sue knows for sure!

No_more_cyber_bullying (Inactive) writes:

The states with the highest welfare rolls are blue states. I guess Klaus and PLost consider that intelligence.

1Paradiselost writes:

in response to No_more_cyber_bullying:

The states with the highest welfare rolls are blue states. I guess Klaus and PLost consider that intelligence.

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

No_more_cyber_bullying (Inactive) writes:

The only loser here is the one who has nothing more to do with his/her life than to sit on the computer day and night using the names of Klabauterman, Klaus denying such and thinking anyone out her believes a word or cares. Except Sue of course!

Too bad the two of you live such insignificant existances that you have so much time to waste blogging. And by the way yes it was me doing the countdown, and so what I had more faith in America than those who voted for YoBama and their free Bama phones!

1Paradiselost writes:

We The People..... (Is this Joke or a Morgan & Morgan commercial)?

I thought there would be hope for you!

However your so filled with anger and hate It was easy to tell you were the artist formally known as "The Zookeeper".

No matter how many times you change your name, your broken record message of hate is still the same..

Changing your name and password every day for over a month... You have proven to us you need some time on your doctors couch!

No_more_cyber_bullying (Inactive) writes:

No Klaus, it means you have nothing better to do with your life. In addition you have no way of knowing how many clicks there are on your posts, as you put it, that information is not available except in your little troll's mind.

I guess Sue is not giving you the attention you so crave. That is why you have blogged 1000s of blogs both day and night.

1Paradiselost writes:

We The People..... (Is this Joke or a Morgan & Morgan commercial)?

Your busting on Klaus for the number of blogs he submitted LOL? We can't tell how many times you blog.... BECAUSE... YOU KEEP CHANGING YOUR NAME!

BTW.. Did the Secret Service make a visit yet?

Back to subject... Just another invasive small animal in this state. That takes up space, eats our food, has no fresh ideas, says NO to everything and produces nothing!

I Know, your a Tea Party Republican! Your going to change the world by loosing every election from now on..

In the future be proud of what you write.. Who knows you may be ED with a different handle? Do you know who you are?

PS.. Can you wait until tomorrow until we are graced with your reply?

No_more_cyber_bullying (Inactive) writes:

P.S. KMA

No_more_cyber_bullying (Inactive) writes:

in response to 1Paradiselost:

We The People..... (Is this Joke or a Morgan & Morgan commercial)?

I thought there would be hope for you!

However your so filled with anger and hate It was easy to tell you were the artist formally known as "The Zookeeper".

No matter how many times you change your name, your broken record message of hate is still the same..

Changing your name and password every day for over a month... You have proven to us you need some time on your doctors couch!

The hate montra has been your attempt to discredit anone who diagrees with you. Have you noticed that it has been the rallying cry of liberal democrats throughout the past several years and has gone the way of bra burning. Everyone else hates but you exude love. NOT!

1Paradiselost writes:

in response to No_more_cyber_bullying:

P.S. KMA

You Can't miss it.. It's as big as Nebraska!

No_more_cyber_bullying (Inactive) writes:

in response to 1Paradiselost:

You Can't miss it.. It's as big as Nebraska!

What does the Kentucky Medical Association have to do with Nebraska or are you just fixated on particular anatomical sites?

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