Escaped Exotic Pets That Now Populate Florida's Wilderness

These exotic animals are escaping or being released and then multiplying in Florida which can be quite dangerous for the population and the animals themselves.

Exotic pets are rare or unusual animals that aren’t normally household pets. Exotic pets are generally thought of as wild animals. These pets need special attention to their diet, environment, and housing. Their vet bills are often higher than normal pet bills, and exotic pets may even be a danger to their owner. When exotic pets escape, eventually multiply and become quite invasive, which is what is happening in Florida. Take a look at the following list of exotic pets from Florida that escaped and repopulated.

8. Burmese Pythons

#8 Burmese Pythons

Burmese Pythons can grow up to 6 feet long. Pythons began to breed in Florida’s warm weather. The Burmese pythons eat local marsh rabbits, bobcats, and small mammals. There was hope that alligators would eat the Burmese pythons, but the Burmese Pythons ate the alligators instead. Hunters are now paid to hunt Burmese python. It is currently illegal to own a Burmese Python in Florida.

7. Rhesus Macaques

#7 Rhesus Macaques

Rhesus Macaques were released in the Silver River on an island in the 1930’s. These monkeys can swim and soon infiltrated Central Florida. These pesky monkeys can be aggressive when threatened and carry a herpes virus that can spread to humans through their excrement and bodily fluids.

6. Iguanas

#6 Iguanas

Iguanas are one of Florida’s most invasive species. Iguanas become hostile during mating season and often try to escape if they are a pet. Once in Florida neighborhoods, Iguanas eat from people’s gardens, destroy electrical equipment, and leave their waste in pools. Florida residents are now paid to kill them by smashing their heads with a heavy object.

5. The Nile Monitor

#5 The Nile Monitor

The Nile Monitor lives in Florida’s canals, tidal creeks, and mangroves. They are very good swimmers and climbers. These giant lizards eat whatever they can find. Wasp nests, poisonous toads, rattlesnakes, and family pets are all fair game to be eaten. Although Nile Monitors mostly live in the Nile Delta. Currently, about 1,000 Nile Monitors are thought to live in Florida.

4. The Pacu Fish

#4 The Pacu Fish

‘Testicle-Eating’ Pacu Fish has a bizarre set of human-looking teeth. The Pacu is a cousin of the Piranha. Pacu fish have a blunter set of teeth, unlike the Piranha that is known for its sharp, scary teeth. Pacu also grows much bigger than Piranhas. They have been known to weigh about 50 pounds throughout the South-Central Florida region.

         According to Henrik Carl, a fish expert at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, pacu fish got their nickname because there have been instances where they have bitten off male testicles in countries like Papua New Guinea. The fish bit them because they were hungry, and testicles fit well in their mouth. The fish don’t have anything personal against men; testicles just made a convenient meal.

3. Giant African Land Snails

#3 Giant African Land Snails

These snails are the world’s largest land mollusk. They are 8 inches long and 4 inches in diameter. Giant African land snails carry a parasitic worm that can reach humans and cause meningitis. This snail eats 500 different types of plants in Florida. They can even cause devastation to the plaster and stucco on buildings. Perhaps most horrifying of all is that this snail can have up to 1,200 babies at one time. This means that the giant African land snail will be staying a while in Florida. No one knows how the Giant African land snail made it to Florida. It is illegal to bring the snail into the US without a permit, and no permits have ever been issued. However, it is possible that illegal pet trading brought them into the state.

         In 1966, a child secretly brought 3 of the snails into the U.S. When the boy’s grandmother found out about them, she made the child release them in the garden. The 3 snails caused an infestation that grew into 18,000 snails. One million dollars later, the problem has eradicated Another theory on how the snails got to Florida is for a religious ritual from the Santeria religion, an Afro-Caribbean religion. Some Santeria religious rituals use the snail’s juices, and many believe that these gigantic snails were smuggled into the country for this reason.

2. Wild Boars

#2 Wild Boars

Wild Boars are huge animals that weigh about 200 pounds. They are carriers for 24 diseases including cholera and tuberculosis. Wild boars eat farmers’ feed and livestock. They damage native plants and are competitive with native animals. Wild boars mess up Florida’s ecosystem.

         These aggressive animals were brought to Florida over 500 years ago by Hernando de Soto to be a food source. Four million wild boars live in the United States, but 500,000 call Florida home. Hunters have trained bloodhounds to track them at night. Florida does not have hunting regulations on wild boars. The wild boar is the second most hunted animal in Florida. Some people figured out that if you serve wild boar and call it prime pork, money can be made.

1. ‘Man Eater’ Nile Crocodile

#1 ‘Man Eater’ Nile Crocodile

This crocodile can grow up to 20 feet long and weigh as much as a small car. They will eat whatever they can get including fish, wild animals, and humans. The Nile Crocodiles are more dangerous than Florida alligators. Nile Crocodiles became present in Florida about six years ago, probably as a result of illegal pet trading.

Exotic pets are interesting and unique. They often require extra care and attention. Unfortunately, because of their special needs, many pets are released into the wild, which is what’s happening in Florida.

About the Author

Susanna is a writer from Wisconsin. She loves to spend time in the outdoors, read, do craft projects, and play with her kids.


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