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Florida's Land Grant University

Visit this exhibit for free from September 29th, 2012 through January 2nd, 2013 at:

Florida Museum of Natural History
University of Florida Cultural Plaza
3215 Hull Road
Gainesville, FL 32611-2710

Hours: Mon-Sat 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sun 1-5 p.m.

Florida Museum of Natural History

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View the Smithsonian Folklife Festival site for more about the exhibit

Native and Invasive Reptiles in Florida

The American alligator: Symbol of the Everglades
  • Water is essential to the life cycle of many of Florida's native animals by providing food, sheltering vegetation, temperature regulation, and aiding in reproductive and social behaviors.
  • The American alligator is a "keystone species" and "ecosystem engineer" that affects nearly all life in the wetland ecosystem.
  • Everglades alligator populations are lower density and in poorer condition than those in northern Florida, as a result of water management practices that have altered the natural ecology of the Everglades.
  • Because of their key ecological roles, American alligators (and American crocodiles) are monitored as a system-wide indicator of the health of Everglades environments.


Florida's Reptile Invasion
  • Invasive species are the second leading cause of species endangerment and extinction, after habitat loss.
  • Florida has more nonnative reptile and amphibian species than anywhere else in the world.
  • More than 80% of the nonnative reptiles and amphibians in Florida arrived here through the pet trade.
  • There are more species of nonnative lizards breeding in Florida than native lizards.
  • Invasive plants and animals cost Floridians more than $500 million each year.
  • Nationwide, invasive animals and associated animal diseases cost up to $35 billion per year.
Native Species

Animals and plants whose presence in a region is the result of only natural processes, without the aid of humans.

Non-native (exotic, alien) species

Animals and plants that are living outside their native range, which have arrived there by human activity (either intentional or accidental).

Invasive Species

Nonnative plants or animals that cause or are likely to cause harm to the environment, economy, and/or human health.


  1. Live Capture of Python in the Florida Everglades (YouTube)
  2. Alligator Catch in the Florida Everglades (YouTube)
  3. Burmese Python Surgery (YouTube)

UF in Action

  1. American Alligator and American Crocodile 2009 Stoplight Indicator

UF researchers monitor American alligators and American crocodiles in the Everglades. Long-term monitoring of these species contributes to an understanding of how the ecosystem is responding to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). For alligators, we monitor relative density (number of alligators per kilometer), body condition (measured as length/weight ratio), and percent of alligator holes that are occupied. Crocodile performance measures are growth (cm/day) and survival rate. Monitoring data are combined and displayed on a map in "stoplight" colors to represent the status of the alligator and crocodile populations and progress toward meeting restoration goals.

UF researchers collaborate with scientists and resource managers from other agencies and organizations to study and control invasive species in Everglades ecosystems. We contribute to a comprehensive management approach for invasive species which includes the following elements:

  • Screening and Risk Assessment
  • Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR)
  • Control and Containment
  • Outreach and Education

You can help!

  1. Burmese python food pyramid

Learn before you buy

Before buying an exotic pet, ask yourself

  • How big will this animal get?
  • What does this animal eat?
  • Am I prepared to care for this animal for 15-20 years?


Don't let it loose

If you can't care for an exotic pet anymore, don't set it free - that's illegal, and your pet will likely die without care from you.

  • Find a local hobby group or rescue that may have an adoption program
  • See if the pet shop will take it back or accept it as a donation
  • Check your local nature centers and museums
  • Talk to your humane society
  • In Florida, bring it to an Exotic Pet Amnesty Day or call the FWC's adoption hotline at 888-IVE-GOT1


Learn what invasive species are in your area and what is being done about them.

  • Learn to identify invasive nonnative species in your area.
  • In Florida, report sightings of nonnative species at www.IveGot1.org, 1-888-IVE-GOT1, or using the "I've Got 1" app for iPhone or Android.
  • Check your state regulations and go fishing for exotic fish!


Support any legislation that funds comprehensive efforts to address invasive species, including

  • Screening and Risk Assessment
  • Early Detection and Rapid Response
  • Control and Containment
  • Outreach and Education

Extra Resources