The Four Baddest Animals in Florida That Shouldn't Be Here

A 20-year University of Florida study out last week says Florida has the most invasive reptiles and amphibians in the world. A day or two after that came out, state officials declared war on giant African snails in Miami-Dade County.

Yep, Florida apparently has a nasty invasive species problem, and Kristina Serbesoff-King, invasive species program director for the Nature Conservancy of Florida, said it's due to some pretty good reasons: climate, number of people with pets, and a huge volume of plants and animals coming through our ports.

Here are a some of the animals, often kept as pets, that are doing quite a number on the Sunshine State.

​4. The Nile Monitor Lizard
This southern and central Africa native looks like a cross between a gator and an iguana. Their prominence in south and southwest Florida is attributed to "probable pet escapees and intentional releases." In recent years, they've decided to take over Cape Coral. Now, one might think that having big lizards running around would be kind of cool, but unfortunately, they like to eat animals that are supposed to be here, like baby owls and gopher tortoises. 

3. The Burmese Python
These guys may be a little awesome, but researchers say they're a hazard for the same reasons as the monitor -- plus, they pose a threat to humans. It's illegal to have one in Florida. Some former pet owners apparently thought it'd be a great idea to free a few of these in the Everglades. "They are really creating a big, big problem," said Kenneth Krysko, PhD, the researcher behind the UF study. Krysko said they're breeding like crazy and eating native mammals.

2. The Lionfish
It reportedly all started with Hurricane Andrew. These fish are lovely to look at, but in two decades, Serbesoff-King said, they've put a dent in the biodiversity on Caribbean reefs and threaten marine life up and down the East Coast -- they eat almost anything, and their poisonous spines fend off predators. "Lionfish are just astounding us," she said. They've gotten so rampant that a South Florida environmental nonprofit is hosting periodic lionfish derbies, where divers can hunt the slow-swimming fish with spear guns and nets.

1. The Cat
Few will challenge the adorableness of cats, let alone their ridiculously cuddly offspring. Yet few will disagree that there are way too damned many of them wandering around outside, breeding like crazy, and eating stuff that shouldn't be eaten. They collect in parks including Hollywood North Beach, where groups like Cat Pals Inc. have been trying for years to capture and domesticate them. "That's the one that kills me," Serbesoff-King said of South Florida's feral cat problem. "They're a big problem in conservation lands."

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Kate Bradshaw