Florida has become a free-for-all for the crazy animals of the sunshine state. Alligators run the land and chew on severed limbs, peacocks peck the paint off of people's cars, and monkeys give everybody herpes. As if sweating in full humidity wasn't annoying enough, lots of problem animals in Florida cause a whole lot of grief for residents. There's just something about Florida's sticky, hot weather that makes it the perfect breeding ground for escaped animals on the loose and non-native predators.
Invasive animals in Florida run amok because no one is there to stop them. With no known predators, animals like the lionfish have resorted to cannibalism. From alligators waddling around the streets to snakes wiping out mammal populations, people in the sunshine state definitely have their hands full. Check out all the Florida animals that are unrestrained to do as they please in the list below.
Giant African Snail
This nightmarish snail, which looks like something out of a horrific sci-fi film, is terrorizing south Florida residents. While you'll have more luck outrunning a snail than you would an alligator, these guys have some wormy friends, and their friends are packing. USGS biologists collected tissue samples from a bunch of these squishy suckers and found out that they carry the rat lungworm parasite.
This parasitic burrows into humans and causes painful headaches, vomiting, and a stiff neck. In the worst cases, it can transmit meningitis to humans. Anyone who picks up a snail is at risk.
Florida is famous for two things: Disney World and alligators. In fact, their football team is even named the Florida Gators. But watch out! The actual alligators are real living, breathing reptiles that could kill your family's dog. What's most dangerous about these massive creatures is that they're opportunistic feeders. They'll eat almost anything, if given the chance.
In addition, many alligators have also completely lost their fear of humans. This dramatically increases the potential of dangerous encounters, and unprovoked alligator attacks are becoming increasingly more common. Every once in a while, they've been known to accidentally go for a human. In a famous case in 2016, a young boy was dragged into the water by a gator at a Disney World resort.
Alligators are basically the kings of Florida. Over a million of them roam freely, getting stuck in people's backyard pools and making marshlands a hazard. The scariest part? An alligator can easily outrun any human. You don't have a chance if one decides you're its next meal. It's only a matter of time before they own the land and people start paying them rent.
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Lionfish haven't always had a presence in Florida, as their native region is the Indo-Pacific, but experts believe that when a lionfish was released from an aquarium into the wild in the late '80s, things started spiraling out of control. Lionfish lay two million eggs a year and have no known predators in Florida waters. Thus, populations have been growing at an overwhelming speed with no end in sight. These spiky-finned little guys are natural predators and typically feed on smaller fish and crustaceans. Unfortunately, there just aren't enough tiny fish to feed them, so they're turning to cannibalism.
Cannibalism is extremely rare for animals. Fisherman Gary Nichols told National Geographic that he has only seen this trait in small invertebrates like shrimp, which were caught in his lobster traps. Nichols believes that lionfish are eating each other because there simply aren't enough crustaceans around to satisfy their hunger.
Currently, experts can't figure out what to do about the problem, and one marine researcher thinks the issue is too far gone. In an interview with National Geographic, Matthew Johnson admitted, "It is way too late to do anything about it. We need to learn from this example and not let it happen again." So, perhaps the lionfish will kill off most of the other fish around them or maybe they'll kill off each other. Either way, there's little anyone can do to stop them.
In 1938, a tug boat operator named Colonel Tooey purchased a bunch of rhesus macaques from an exotic wildlife dealer to spice up his jungle boat touring business. Tooey released these monkeys on a small man-made island, from which they ventured into Florida and started rapidly reproducing. As of January 2016, an estimated 200 rhesus monkeys live in Silver Springs Park, Florida.
That may not seem like a ton of monkeys, but these animals are actually quite a hazard to anyone they come in contact with because they carry the Herpes-B virus. The virus kills a whopping 8% of people who contract it, and anyone who gets a scratch or touches a monkey's bodily fluids is at risk.