Nile Monitor lizard
Reports are emerging in Florida of encounters with large African lizards known as Nile Monitors. Image from Wikimedia commons.

Florida, the land of Disneyworld, Miami Beach and Lynyrd Skynyrd, has been invaded by a foreign menace that is terrorizing the population. Monitor lizards are swarming all over the state as irresponsible former owners have let their exotic pets escape into the wild.

South Florida residents reporting encounters with huge reptiles

Various news agencies are reporting encounters between citizens of South Florida and large reptiles that are not supposed to be there. A growing number of people are reporting monitor lizards to authorities, according to MSNBC, as an ever-increasing number of them are running wild in the Sunshine State.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is warning people to keep their distance but to report the scaled beasts to authorities immediately if they see one.

No one has been bitten or hurt in any way yet, but experts state that the lizards do pose a threat. Nile Monitors, according to Wikipedia, can grow up to nine feet in length and have powerful jaws. Like all monitor lizards, Nile Monitors can deliver a powerful, whip-like blow with the tail that can kill most pets.

Confined to small area for now

The recent Florida monitor lizard sightings are confined to Palm Beach and Broward counties, according to the Miami Herald. Nine of the large reptiles were sighted along canals in West Palm Beach, and one of them was captured after it entered a persons’ home using the pet door. Two have been apprehended by the FWC, including one nabbed after entering a doggy door. Both reptiles were euthanized.

Since monitor lizards are large predators that can easily eat pets and wildlife, the FWC isn’t taking chances by keeping the lizards in captivity. Photos have circulated of the monitor lizards mating, so the FWC is putting them down when captured. There is already an established population of at least 50 in Cape Coral.

Northward march of the lizards

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, monitor lizards have been established in Florida since 1990. The first monitor lizard captured in Florida was near Lake Kanapaha in 1981. The USGS estimates the lizards, which are often sold as exotic pets, will spread throughout the Gulf states and possibly into the Carolinas.

It is believed that irresponsible pet owners intentionally release exotic animals into the wild when they become too troublesome to care for, or the pets escape. Animal experts trace the growth of invasive species to such incidents.

News report on invasive monitor lizards

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQU0QnPTR-M

Sources

MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43580006/ns/us_news-environment/?gt1=43001

Miami Herald: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/06/28/2289914/wildlife-group-warns-of-invasion.html

Wikipedia on Nile Monitor: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nile_monitor

USGS: http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=1085

ABC: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/hunt-deadly-pythons-deep-florida-everglades/story?id=13742390

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