Pets that become too much for an owner to care for become a major cause of invasive species outbreaks across the United States when they are released into nearby water or woods.
To prevent that from happening, prospective buyers should consider the entire lifecycle of a pet before buying it. And if they still end up with a bully in their aquarium or a 10-foot python with an appetite that includes rabbits, they should be aware that a release in the wild is not an appropriate solution.
“A lot of these released pets don’t survive,” said Kris Serbesoff-King, The Nature Conservancy’s invasive species program manager in Florida. “They get eaten as prey, they die from disease, they get hit by cars. It’s really not a humane thing to do.”
Florida’s inviting climate allows certain non-native, invasive species such as the Burmese python to make themselves at home. Thousands of pythons now live in the Everglades, where they find mates and may have as many as 100 babies in a year. Pythons eat native species, including endangered wading birds and mammals. A species like the python, once established in such a habitat, is near impossible to eliminate.
Owners who can no longer care for an exotic pet should instead:
Several pet amnesty days are scheduled around the state by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), at which people can surrender exotic pets for free, with no questions asked. Find more information on pet amnesty days.
All surrendered pets will be examined by a licensed veterinarian and FWC will look for qualified adopters for the healthy ones. Exotic reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish and mammals are accepted at most events: domestic pets, such as dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, are not.
The agency seeks to certify more adopters. If you are interested in becoming certified, go to: http://myfwc.com/nonnatives/.