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Cold Snap–Or At Least Colds–May Push Back Florida Invasives

Florida’s cold snap could provide the big check on invasive species biologists have been wanting for decades. We could see less iguanas and pythons–and also fewer more beloved animals such as parrots. Even animals that didn’t die in the cold could die of a cold in coming weeks.

“I expect we’re going to have huge, huge mortality, maybe even in Miami itself,” says Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission invasive species expert Scott Hardin. “Those that didn’t die [from the cold] could easily die of a respiratory infection.”

The Everglades’ infamous python invaders were at least cold-stunned and perhaps hurt worse. Researchers found that 10 of 11 of the giant snakes they tracked weren’t moving, Hardin said. He added that he didn’t have word yet on the giant parrot colonies that live around the state, especially Miami.

Given the hurt the freezing temperatures caused Floridians, Hardin didn’t want to sound too gleeful. But he so clearly was. The non-natives can push out species that naturally belong, and they’ve been running amok for 30-40 years, the last time Florida saw weather this harsh.

A few of the more vulnerable native animals were also hurt by the wintry blast. Hundreds of sea turtles were rescued, but hundreds more found dead, according to Hardin. The state did get to tag and collect information on lots of endangered green turtles.

Florida got a record count of manatees (5,067) because they’re easier to see when they’re crowded around the warm water of power plants and natural springs. Officials warned tourists to stay away so the manatees wouldn’t leave the warm areas they need to survive. And not just the big tours known for their inappropriate petting, either. Manatee advocate Tracy Colson says even kayak tour operators like hers suspended operations to let the manatees warm up.

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