Everglades Invasive Species – The Animals That came to Florida
Florida counts many invasive animal species. Unlike native species, invasive ones are not initially from the area but have come from other places and established their territory rather aggressively. Those species adapt to the Everglades’ climatic and environmental conditions and now form an essential part of its ecosystem. Here are some of the animals that were once native of other geographical locations, and can be observed through West Palm Beach Airboat Rides:
Different mammals were introduced into Florida by European settlers in the 16th century. While not as famously recognized, wild pigs and boars serve their role in Florida’s food chain. They prey on smaller animals and also devour large quantities of the local vegetation. They serve as substantial prey to Florida panthers and alligators. Another lesser appreciated part of this ecosystem is rats’ diversity, from black rats to ship rats. They compete with the local rodent population and contribute to the lowering of the local key largo woodrats. Other mammals include feral cats, with an estimated 5.3 million free-roaming cats residing in Florida.
When we think of the Everglades, we think of American crocodiles and Alligators. Still, snakes such as the Burmese python have made their way from Southeast Asia starting in 1979, imported through the pet trade. They are removed from the Everglades national park as they prey on the local endangered animal species, such as Florida’s white-tailed deer. Green iguanas have also expanded rapidly, a native of Central America, and imported through trade in the 1960s. Another common invasive reptile is the Nile monitor, an African lizard introduced to Florida in the 1990s.
The most common Florida invasive bird species are the Monk parakeet and the Quaker parrot. Brough from south America through trade and established in Florida by 1969, they live in large colonies and populate exceptionally rapidly. They are invasive because they form large nests and often degrade the local powerlines by making balls of twigs.
The island apple snail comes from South America and affects the local water ecology, causing a rapid increase in the algae population in freshwater areas. Local conservationists regularly remove those snails, but studies still try to look at the extent of their invasiveness. Florida scientists are always looking into the best course of action to stop their spread. Another non-native invertebrate is the Asiatic clam. Those were introduced to Florida by 1961 from Asian laborers in British Columbia. They displace food and nesting sources from native aquatic animals but are also a regular source of food for native ducks.
Released from Thailand and established in Florida in the 1960s, walking catfish are aggressive feeders that prey on smaller fish and crustaceans. They can survive out of water for days if they stay moist. Suckermouth catfish originating from south America live in Florida’s lakes, ponds, and canals. They compete with other smaller native fish by browsing weeds and algae and can even harm local birds that attempt to eat them. Other non-native fish, such as the blue tilapia, have a significant presence in the Everglades. Those fish form large communities that can often slow down and impede other fish native to Florida.
Florida’s ecosystem is a very complex and fragile one. Humans maintain and protect the local species from those foreign invasive ones. Those measures include fighting back against non-local and invasive animals. Keeping the local ecosystem in good shape is no small feature and witnessing this battle of different breeds is just one of Florida’s many fascinating aspects that you can observe by touring the Everglades and Palm Beach.