What is a nonnative species?

Nonnative species are animals living outside captivity that did not historically occur in Florida. Over 500 nNonnative -turtleonnative fish and wildlife species and 1180 nonnative plant species have been documented in the state.

Most nonnatives are introduced species, meaning they have been brought to Florida by humans.  A few of Florida's exotics arrived by natural range expansions, like cattle egrets, which are native to Africa and Asia but flew across the Atlantic Ocean and arrived in Florida in the 1950s.  Several common nonnative species, like coyotes, armadillos and red foxes, were not only introduced by humans but also spread into Florida by natural range expansions.

Examples of exotic or nonnative species include the many different parrot species in peninsular Florida that escaped from bird owners, African cichlid fish in the south Florida canals that were released from aquaria, squirrel monkeys that were released or escaped from tourist attractions in central Florida, and red-eared sliders, which are the popular "baby turtles" sold in the pet trade and which are now found throughout much of the state.

Native species are those that historically occurred in Florida.  Examples include our most common owl, the barred owl; popular freshwater sportfish such as the Florida largemouth bass; eastern gray squirrels, which are common backyard mammals; and gray rat or oak snakes, which are one of the few snake species that have a tendency to enter people's houses.

Thousands of nonnative species, mostly insects and agricultural pests, have been introduced into Florida and more arrive each day.  As many as 40 exotic agricultural pests arrive here each month.  Many nonnative species, however, are a benefit to people, such as citrus trees and cattle.

Fortunately, of all the exotic species that escape or are released, only a handful will survive and become established.  The majority of those few species that survive will probably not have negative effects on native wildlife.  Most studies have shown this to be true for terrestrial and aquatic animals.

FWC Facts:
Turtles are ancient, shelled reptiles that have existed for 220 million years. Florida is home to 27 turtle species, 20 of which are freshwater turtles.

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