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15 Invasive Species in Florida (With Pictures)

The state of Florida is still waging a decades-old war against invasive species. Certain non-native mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, and even plants, continue to take over new habitats and wreak great havoc on the ecosystem. In this article we’re going to look at some of the most commonly known invasive species in Florida.

What Is Invasive Species?

An invasive species is a non-native organism that occupies a new habitat. Often this causes damage to the environment, animals, and even humans. These “intruders,” or nuisance species, vary in size and causes the following:

  • Reduce biodiversity
  • Cause extinction of native plants and animals
  • Competes with native organisms for food or resources

15 Invasive Species In Florida

Due to Florida’s hospitable climate, it hosts a greater number of invasive species than most other U.S. states.

1. Walking catfish

Walking Catfish
Walking Catfish | image by Vassil via Wikimedia Commons | CC0 1.0

Scientific name: Clarias batrachus

Native to Asia, the walking catfish appeared in Florida in the 1960s due to a breach in aquaculture facilities. This tropical freshwater fish can walk on land and survive 18 hours out of water.

These black, slippery, snake-like creatures with fins and whiskers enjoy stagnant waters, canals, and ponds. Commonly found in Everglades, they invade aquaculture facilities and destroy fish stocks. They also disturb Florida parking lots.

2. Argentine Black and White Tegu

Argentine Black & White Tegu | image by Bernard Dupont via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Salvator merianae

This large lizard that grows up to 4 feet has been introduced to Florida via pet trades. It disrupts Florida’s ecosystem by feeding on a variety of plants and small animals.

These lizards also snack on buried eggs of turtles and alligators. The tegu population is a major threat to endangered species, such as ground-nesting birds, sea turtles, and American crocodiles.

3. Muscovy Ducks

Muscovy Ducks

Scientific name: Cairina moschata

Introduced into the state as a decorative animal in urban parks, the Muscovy duck, with its strange hissing sounds, are great pest controllers. However, they steal the food of other native species.

If they get used to being fed, they become aggressively dependent on humans, making them a great nuisance. These large ducks (9 lbs) with red protuberances on the face damage properties and even transmit diseases.

4. Burmese Python

Scientific name: Python bivittatus

Introduced to the U.S. as an exotic pet, the Burmese python, which can grow up to 20 feet, became an invasive species after a storm destroyed a breeding facility releasing countless numbers of them.

These giant 200-pound pythons eat big and small warm-blooded animals, devouring marsh rabbits, foxes, bobcats, opossums, raccoons— biting them in the head, crushing them, suffocating, or strangling them, before swallowing them. As a result, the Everglades saw a severe decline in mammals.

5. Cane Toad

Scientific name: Rhinella marina

A decades-old menace in southern Florida, cane toads are poisonous amphibians that kill house pets. They release a milky substance that could kill your dog or cat in less than 15 minutes if they are not given immediate first aid. They can also poison humans.

These warty frogs hang out along waterways all year round. But the danger of these toxic creatures, also known as bufo toads, happen during the summer where they multiply in great disturbing numbers and invade developed areas and neighborhoods.

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6. Rhesus Monkey

Rhesus Monkey

Scientific name: Macaca mulatta

These dangerous monkeys carry the fatal herpes B. If a rhesus monkey’s bodily fluids accidentally enter your eye or mouth or nose, you can easily die or suffer from brain damage.

These wild monkeys have been known to throw their feces at humans and have spread across Florida since the 1930s. They don’t chase humans, so the only recourse is to avoid these disease-infested invasive species.

7. Brazilian Peppertree

Brazilian Peppertree | image by Plant Right via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Schinus terebinthifolius

One of the worst invasive plants in Florida, the Brazilian peppertree trespasses nearly all land ecosystems in central and south Florida. Native to Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina, this invasive plant arrived in the U.S. as an ornamental plant.

It is considered a major weed— aggressive and prolific. Worse, they cause a host of health issues to humans, such as sinus and nasal congestion, sneezing, eye irritation, headaches, and even chest pains.

8. Wild boar

Scientific name: Sus scrofa

These monster pigs that arrived in the 1500s courtesy of Spanish explorers invade people’s yards and dig holes in them— and when they see you, they chase and attack you. But what truly pains Floridians is that these wild boards cause thousands of dollars in damages.

These angry pigs, which sometimes show up in gangs, grow up to 6 feet long and can weigh 150 lbs. They trample on crops, disrupting habitats, and prey on many animals, causing a reduction in biodiversity.

9. Cuban tree frog

Scientific name: Osteopilus septentrionalis

Introduced to Florida in the 1920s by accident, the Cuban tree frog competes with native species and gobbles small snakes and lizards. They harm native ecosystems and are also a major nuisance to people.

This invasive species can grow big and sometimes short-circuit utility switches, causing power outages. They are aggressive and have big appetites.

10. Bullseye snakehead

Bullseye Snakehead | image by Florida Fish & Wildlife via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Channa marulius

The most invasive fish in Florida, the bullseye snakehead is native to Asia. These vicious predators rapidly consume fish and out-compete them for food.

With a large mouth and sharp teeth, these fish threaten the aquatic ecosystem and the state’s recreational fishing industry. They can breathe out of the water and can move on land.

11. Black spinytail iguana

Black Spinytail Iguana | image by Charlie Jackson via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Ctenosaura similis

The Central American native invader is a ravenous eater and consumes mice, lizards, and other small animals. They have also been known to climb rooftops and enter pipes.

These spiny tails have spread out in the state by the thousands. They also cause property damage and are a serious threat to endangered species because of their huge appetite.

12. Lionfish

Scientific name: Pterois volitans

Lionfish infiltrated Florida in the late 1980s via aquarium owners that released them into coastal waters. These numerous predators with deadly venomous spines are a threat to native fish.

They also destroy coral reefs by devouring herbivores that protect them. They cause extinctions of native animals and plants, alter habitats, and compete for food.

13. Giant African land snail

Giant African Land Snail | image by Dinesh Valke via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Lissachatina fulica

These big mollusks with humongous appetites damage food crops, wrecking havoc on Florida’s agricultural and natural areas. They’ve even been known to eat stucco off a house if they can’t find enough natural calcium! These giant land snails that are native to east Africa.

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These large snails also spread rat lungworm, which causes meningitis— which causes swelling of the brain and spinal cord.

14. Air potato vine

Air Potato Vine | image by Dinesh Valke via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Dioscorea bulbifera L

This herbaceous, twining vine from Asia has been causing stress since 1993. It grows and spreads rapidly. Growing 8 inches a day, these weeds climb to the tops of mature trees, suffocating them.

This vine interferes with the ecosystem and threatens biodiversity. They are a threat to endangered species and devastation in natural habitats.

15. Feral cat

image: Pixabay.com

Scientific name: Felis catus

Cute but terrible, feral cats are responsible for the extinction of numerous native species, especially birds to medium-sized mammals. These ownerless cats also transmit diseases, like rabies that can spread to both humans and wildlife.

Brought into the U.S. by European colonists, feral cats are now numbering 100 million, further preying on wildlife.