In parts of Florida, Burmese pythons gobble up rabbits and raccoons. Green iguanas destroy gardens and burrow under sidewalks. Cuban tree frogs prey on native frogs and climb into homes through windows and pipes.
“I’ve had several people tell me stories about tree frogs coming out of a toilet or coming out of the drain in their sink,” says Hardin Waddle of the U.S. Geological Survey.
Waddle studies reptile and amphibian communities in the Southeast. He says dozens of invasive reptile and amphibian species live in the Sunshine State.
Some arrived through the exotic pet trade. Others hitched rides on cargo ships. But once on the loose in the Florida wilds, many tropical species thrived in the warm climate.
For now, these cold-sensitive species remain confined mainly to Florida. The Burmese python, for example, can die during prolonged freezing weather.
“It’s those extreme cold events that we think prevent a lot of the more tropical species from moving northward,” Waddle says.
But he says that as winters get warmer, tropical invasive species might expand their ranges.
So it will be important for people farther north to watch out for new invasive species and for wildlife managers to plan how to control them.
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media