Non-Native Species Along the Indian River Lagoon

Common orange rat snake and Knight Anole in a life or death struggle, Sewall's Point. (Photo by Nina B, 2014.)
Common red rat snake and knight anole fight to the death on the back porch, Sewall’s Point. (Photo by Nina Barsik, 2014.)

I believe that all animals are God’s creatures and I try to be kind to every single one, even snakes, lizards and ants. I drive my husband crazy, and he rolls his eyes if I scold him for killing a fly,  but I have been this way since I was a kid. All of the animals are my friends. I always wanted to be Snow White and have the birds land on my shoulder and talk to me. So far, the cardinals in my yard sometimes come close when I put out their sunflower seeds, but that’s about it.

Upon seeing this photograph yesterday, I wanted to share because if nothing else it reminded me that we are not the only ones fighting for our lives here along the Indian River Lagoon!

This photo, taken in Sewall’s Point, is of an red rat snake, a native, and a knight anole, a non-native, that according to the Florida Wildlife Commission has lived and bred in our area for around ten years. I have had  both species  in my aquarium at one point or another if they were injured to rehabilitate;  from what I was told, these two in the photograph were in a very healthy death grip, until one “won” of course….

By the way, in case this photo  freaks you out, snakes are great natural pest control of especially rodents; they will not attack a well cared for “Fido,” so please don’t kill them.

As afar as the knight anole, non-native species are not a problem unless they start to take over native  species to the point that the entire eco-system radically changes. For instance, many of you may be familiar with lion-fish which are now invading the lagoon and according to Harbor Branch Oceanographic kill/consume about 67 % of all life around them; or pythons in the everglades eating, deer, panthers, and alligators and now becoming the top predator. This is a problem… At the end of the day, it is usually humans that bring the animal into the non native area by releasing pets.

The Florida Wildlife Commission defines non-native animals as “exotic” saying:
“Exotic species are animals living outside captivity that did not historically occur in Florida. Most are introduced species, meaning they have been brought to Florida by humans. A few of Florida’s exotics arrived by natural range expansions, like cattle egrets which are native to Africa and Asia but flew across the Atlantic Ocean and arrived in Florida in the 1950s. Several common nonnative species, like coyotes, armadillos and red foxes, were not only introduced by humans but also spread into Florida by natural range expansions.”

So let’s know our environment, please be kind to all animals,  and let’s all help nature’s balance by not releasing exotic pets into the wild along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

Who won? I knew you were wondering about that…the snake!

Florida Wildlife Commission/FWC: (http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/nonnatives/exotic-information/)

FWC Knight Anole: (http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/nonnatives/reptiles/knight-anole/)

FWC Red/(Orange) Rat/AKA “corn snake” Snake:http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/imperiled/profiles/reptiles/red-rat-snake/)

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2-11-15:  Just to follow up and note how small the world is– as well as how much can happen through social media… a Harvard Professor and Curator of Herpetology, at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, at Harvard University, Johathan Losos, saw this IRL blog post above on the invasive Knight Anole and native Rat Snake fight in Sewall’s Point. He then got in touch with me, spoke to the woman at whose home this occurred, and  published his own blog post for his Herpetology community. Read his blog here! Thank you Dr Losos! (http://www.anoleannals.org/2015/02/09/knight-anole-vs-red-rat-snake-who-will-win/)

7 thoughts on “Non-Native Species Along the Indian River Lagoon

  1. Thank you for sending these interesting articles into our newsroom here at http://www.treasurecoast.com

    I am posting your stories and sharing them on our facebook as well.

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  2. Excellent advice — “Don’t release exotic animals!” If you have an exotic pet, you have made a commitment to it no different than the commitment you make to a new puppy. Should you tire of it, “releasing it” may seem like a fine idea. But most likely it will be a rather cruel death sentence for your pet. Should it beat the odds and survive, it will only contribute to the further degradation of our native wild ecosystems.

    As for the snake, it is properly a Red Rat Snake or Corn Snake (two names, same snake). Red refers to the general background coloration, while rat refers to the primary diet of rodents. The corn name is because the belly is white with dark multicolored small blotches, and looks like Indian corn. As you said, this is a medium sized completely harmless snake. When encountered around human habitations, best to leave it alone to pursue its diet of mice and rats.

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  3. very fun. good job William E. Lippisch DMD Diplomate, American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery 841 East Ocean Boulevard Stuart, FL 34994

    Voice : 772-223-0600 Fax : 772-223-0617 Email : welippisch@OMFS.com Email : welippisch@gmail.com

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