Florida Bans Sale of Invasive Reptiles as Iguanas and Snakes Take Over

A 14-foot, 95-pound, female Burmese python captured in Naples, Florida.

A 14-foot, 95-pound, female Burmese python captured in Naples, Florida.
Image: Robert F. Bukaty (AP)

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is clamping down on invasive reptiles, making it illegal for Floridians to breed or sell these problematic creatures except in special circumstances.

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In an effort to protect local ecology, economy, and human health, the state is making it illegal for Floridians to breed or sell such animals as Burmese and scrub pythons, Green anacondas, Nile monitors, green iguanas, and tegus, among several other invasive species. Finalized on February 25, the new rules are meant to improve the regulations on the ownership of invasive reptiles in Florida, and they’re expected to go into effect later this summer.

“Stringent biosecurity measures are required for those entities in possession of Prohibited species to limit escapes,” declares the Florida wildlife commission in its guidelines.

These reptiles are becoming a major menace in the state, ravaging sensitive ecosystems and wreaking havoc in urban environments. The Burmese python, for example, is now endemic in the Everglades, where it consumes a wide variety of prey. Green iguanas have been plaguing home and business owners for years, digging up gardens, damaging sidewalks and seawalls, and occasionally popping up in toilets (yes, seriously). Green iguanas also carry salmonella. So bad is this problem, that the wildlife commission has urged homeowners to kill green iguanas “whenever possible” and without the need for permits.

As the new guidelines stipulate, pet owners will have 90 days to comply with the rules once they go into effect. Except in situations involving requirements to improve outdoor enclosures, which give owners 180 days to comply.

Possession of these animals may be permitted under special circumstances, such as for educational purposes or for “eradication/control activities,” which the Florida wildlife commission describes as a “targeted, systematic effort to remove an entire population of a nonnative species or to contain or otherwise manage the population of an invasive species so as to minimize its spread and impacts.”

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Green iguanas and tegus are still being permitted for personal use (i.e. pets), but those cases will require special permits. These animals can be owned for the duration of their lives, but the commission will only include animals that were owned prior to the new rules going into effect. Owners will have to make sure these animals are marked with a Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tag, and they’ll have to renew their permits annually.

Some pet owners in Florida won’t be happy with the new guidelines, and some breeders will likely have to revise their business plans. Sucks, but the environment is important, as is property, not to mention human health and safety.

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