If you have ever watched Animal Planet you already know just how overrun Florida is with non-native reptiles. Pythons are among the most talked about invasive species, but the Nile Monitor Lizard is quickly gaining steam. Now unlike the non-native python, the monitor lizard has not spread its way across a good portion of the state, despite how successfully it has been breeding. Florida wildlife officials have found that the monitor lizard hasn’t spread very far past the C-51 canal in Palm Beach County. For wildlife officials this is good news because it means that they actually have a chance of getting the upper hand with these invasive lizards, something they haven’t been able to do with the pythons.
Nobody really knows how these invasive lizards came to be in Florida; after all they are native to Africa. But it stands to reason that the lizards were shipped over to Florida as part of the illegal exotic pet trade. Once the Nile Monitor Lizard arrived in Florida, they either escaped from their homes or they were released in the wild, where they quickly started becoming a threat. Although these lizards are native to Africa they are able to thrive in Florida, as many other non-native species are, because of Florida’s unique climate compared to the rest of the United States.
In order to gain the upper hand and totally eradicate the monitor lizard population Florida has changed its approach to how they are handling the invasive species. Now, Florida wildlife officials will patrol the lizard’s breeding grounds once a month, where they will now kill any lizards on sight. Patrols can also be increased to several times a month deepening on how many monitor lizards are spotted during the month and how well they are breeding. One of the advantages these officers have to stepping up patrols during the breeding season is that the lizards are a lot more active, which in turn makes them very easy to spot. And as breeding season approaches eradication is even more important because killing the adult lizards reduces the number of eggs being laid.
In the last 12 years in Palm Beach County 42 Nile Monitor Lizards have been removed from a 12 mile area. This area covers canals and waterways along Interstate 95, but also covers Southern Boulevard and the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Although the Nile Monitor Lizards are often found along the canals and waterways they do make their way into residential areas, which is posing quite a problem. In general monitor lizards are not dangerous to people, but that can quickly change if the lizard is provoked or harassed.
What causes the biggest problem for residents of Florida is the consumption of their family pets. Nile Monitor Lizards regularly consume fish, reptiles, as well as eggs burrowed into the soil. Small mammals also make up a large part of their diet, which is where residents are growing concerned as their cats and dogs are often going missing. To help eliminate the threat that these lizards present Florida residents are being asked to help wildlife officials by taking pictures of any monitor lizard that they spot, as well as reporting it to the proper authorities right away.