The Takeaway Message:

Over 1.7 million acres of Florida’s natural areas have been overrun with more than 500 different nonnative plants and animals. While invasive monkeys are on the rise, lionfish numbers are down and farmers have devised ways to combat the Brazilian pepper tree.

What’s going on? 

Wildlife officials around the country ramped up efforts to inform the public about invasive species during National Invasive Species Awareness Week in late February, but these invaders wreak havoc on Florida habitats and ecosystems year-round.  

For example, invasive herpes B-ridden rhesus macaque monkey populations are rising. Six monkeys were released into the Silver River by a glass-bottom boat operator in the 1930s. In 2015, an estimated 190 monkeys called the woods in Silver Springs State Park home. 

The monkeys are considered invasive because they can spread diseases to local wildlife, and can eat nearly 50 species of plants. Scientists and park rangers have also observed monkeys eating artificially placed quail eggs, meaning they could eat the eggs of native species.  

During the 2020 Florida Legislative Session, lawmakers discussed several bills that aim to curb the spread of invasive species. The Florida House and Senate passed HB 659, which, if signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, would allow Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials to use drones to track down these species. A bill that would ban the possession of iguanas — except for education, research or eradication purposes — is also heading to DeSantis’ desk.   

But, the invasive species news isn’t all bad. Lionfish populations are down, and farmers have devised creative and ambitious ways to fight the Brazilian pepper tree.  

Why it matters:

More than 1.7 million acres of Florida’s natural areas have been overrun with more than 500 different nonnative plants and animals. Invasive species compete with native animals and plants for resources like food and habitat, often upsetting the balance of natural ecosystems.  

Species like feral hogs and green iguanas can cause costly damage to manmade structures and agricultural fields while certain invasive species carry diseases that can pose a threat to public health.  

What can I do?   

  • Familiarize yourself with invasive species in Florida and volunteer with organizations that are combating them.  
  • Download the IveGot1 app to report invasive animals and plants in real-time. 
  • Take active steps to lessen your impact, such as not letting pets loose and being conscientious with yard waste.   

Learn more: 

  • About “Florida’s Least Wanted,” 10 of the states’ most troublesome species. 
  • About the distribution of invasive species across the country by visiting these interactive EDDMaps.