Hurricane Irma - A Bigger Threat to the Everglades

Hurricane Irma: A Bigger Threat to the Everglades

With Hurricane Irma barreling through the Caribbean and south Florida at the peak of 2017’s hurricane season, millions were left with destruction and lack of power. While hurricane season is always a somewhat stressful time for South Floridians, who prepare by stocking up on food, water, and gas, it is much more concerning to Everglades conservationists who are tasked with protecting the environment.

A long-time problem of the Everglades is the invasion of nonnative species, like the Burmese python, and the Australian Pine. These species wreak havoc on the natural systems of the environment they invade, creating diseases, preying on native species, and altering the soil chemistry. Unfortunately, amid power outages and fallen trees, hurricanes and hurricane-scares prompt many south Florida homeowners and exotic pet breeders to release nonnative animals into the Everglades.

The Everglades encountered this issue in 1992, when Hurricane Andrew hit south Florida and countless Burmese Pythons escaped a breeding facility. These gigantic snakes quickly began feeding on local racoons, eggs, and deer, ultimately ravaging the ecosystem that is essential to the health of the Everglades. The Everglades is still fighting back against the Burmese Python today, 25 years later. Animals of concern for Everglades officials include the veiled chameleon, Mexican spiny tail iguana, and the Javan File Snake.

Now, in the Irma clean-up phase, officials, wildlife organizations, and the team at Everglades Holiday Park, urge exotic pet breeders, pet shop owners, and South Floridians to take the appropriate precautions when handling pets in preparation of a storm, like keeping snakes inside bags, locked in crates, in safe spaces that aren’t susceptible to flooding or breakage. Some invasive species will naturally find their way inside the glades waterways, through flooded breeding ponds and storm surges. Officials and conservationists will continue working to protect the Everglades from harmful invaders.

Learn more about invasive species in the Everglades and how you can help protect South Florida’s nature.

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