Nonnative species are animals living outside captivity that did
not historically occur in Florida. Over 500 nonnative 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
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.