Not all wildlife is welcome in our yards

Native green tree frogs, green anoles, southern toads and southern leopard frogs are rarely seen anymore. When was the last time that you saw one? In the last twenty years I have noticed that nearly all of these creatures have been displaced by introduced exotic lizards and bufo toads. These are unwelcome wildlife.

The introduced brown anole will compete for food with our native green anole and also mate with it, thus destroying the green anoles’ genetic identity. Now, from Cuba, comes the 19 inch, bright green knight anole which eats native and exotic frogs, toads, lizards, nestling birds, and anything else that will fit into its gaping mouth.

There are 33 introduced snakes and lizards in Florida that are established. More are on the way as they make the step from pets to pests upon escaping or being released into the wilds. Of these introductions there are a few that cause great alarm and should be removed from the environment without delay.

The green iguana eats flowers, fruit and vegetation and has the potential to leave your yard in tatters with little food remaining for birds. In Cape Coral Florida, African Nile monitor lizards are common. They grow to eight feet long and will eat sea turtle eggs and all manner of wildlife including your dog or cat. The common boa which reaches 13 feet in length is established in Dade County. The female gives birth to 15-40 young a year.

Now think hard about letting your kids outside knowing that a 26 foot long, 200 pound Burmese python might be about. This is a serious problem in Dade, Monroe and Collier counties where thousands of these monsters can be found near water and in trees. In Everglades National Park, alligators, deer, bobcat, wading birds, fish and other animals have been found in the stomachs of captured pythons. I do worry when I go out in the yard at night. Each female lays around 46 eggs per clutch.

Although not a threat to people or pets, the two foot long brown basilisk lizard is fast and eats lizards, snakes, birds and fish. Each female can lay over 100 eggs per year. It is found near canals and can even run on water which gives it the name, “Jesus Christ Lizard”. It reminds me of the small lizards in the scary opening scene of “Jurassic Park” when I see these creatures skulking about in some of our natural areas. I consider them to be a menace to small birds like the warblers and am glad that they don’t attack us.

I consider it necessary to dispose of any invasive creatures that I find in my yard. I remove Bufo toads, knight anoles, iguanas and throw the brown anoles to my Jack Russell Terrier. I am sorry to sound so intolerant, but if we are going to welcome our native species of wildlife into our yards, we will need to protect them from the result of our lack of regulation of exotic pets.

Fortunately the cold snaps of the last couple of years have done great harm to the populations of many of these unwelcome wildlife. Yet, the survivors are multiplying.