When Pets are Invasive Species

“An invasive species can be any kind of living organism—an amphibian, plant, insect, fish, fungus, bacteria, or even an organism’s seeds or eggs—that is not native to an ecosystem and which causes harm.  They can harm the environment, the economy or even, human health. Species that grow and reproduce quickly, and spread aggressively, with potential to cause harm, are given the label of ‘invasive’.”

-National Wildlife Federation

Invasive species are a serious problem in several parts of the world.  Animals can be released into a place they are not supposed to be through many ways.  They can be brought over by foreign ships, introduced on purpose to “control an issue”, or hitch hike on a traveler.  They can even be non native pets released into the wild.

Just because you don’t want a pet anymore, it doesn’t mean you should throw it on the curb.  Abandoning a non native animal is a cruel thing to do, because that animal will either die because they are not adapted to the environment, or live to wreak havoc on nature, which is bad for others who have to share that space.  The animals will compete for food and space with the native wildlife, and will possibly even distress the native people.  Bugs that are introduced in to places they shouldn’t be often carry diseases that can destroy both flora and fauna.

The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is terrorizing the trees of the midwest.  They and their larva will bore holes in ash trees, eventually killing it.  They came from their habitats in China, Russia, and Japan, before somehow ending up in Michigan and ravaging the trees.  They have killed tens of millions of Ash trees, and they continue to multiply quickly.

Now the above example is about invasive species that was unknowingly imported from across the world, but our issue lies in irresponsible pet owners.  The Tegu lizard is a reptile that was sold in pets shops, and is still sold in a few.  Many owners abandoned theses large reptilians, and they have spread rapidly.  They eat and and harass pets, and they have even been reported to kill cats.  Similar to the pythons invading Florida, they are difficult to get rid of.

Speaking of the slithering reptiles, the python has staked out the Florida Everglades as their favorite hunting ground.  They steal food from the alligators by eating everything in sight, and they have even gone so far as to knock the alligators off their place as top predator!  In some incidents, the pythons have even attempted to devour the gators themselves.  Pet owners started releasing unwanted pythons into the Everglades in the 1980’s.  It’s estimated that since 2013 there are 150,000 pythons in the Everglades, and their numbers just keep on growing.  They can reach a length of 6-9 feet long and they have no natural predators.