The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced this week that it is increasing its patrols in Palm Beach County, where Nile monitor lizards have established breeding grounds. The lizards have been in South Florida for years, and many were spotted in West Palm Beach and removed in previous years.
Biologists expect the breeding season to begin soon, which may make the lizards more visible and easier for FWC officers to spot and kill. Officials are requesting the public’s assistance by photographing and reporting sightings.
"We have found that the population hasn't spread very far from the C-51 Canal, and if we increase the pressure, we might be able to eradicate them," Jenny Ketterlin Eckles, non-native wildlife biologist for the FWC, told the Sun Sentinel.
The Nile monitor lizard can grow to over 5 feet long and reach 15 pounds, according to the FWC's website. They are most frequently spotted along canal banks near Southern Boulevard in Palm Beach County. They were first introduced as pets but many escaped or were released into the wild. They have since become an invasive species, according to Yahoo Finance.
The lizards are known to eat domestic cats in their natural habitat in Africa, and there are unconfirmed reports of lizards eating pets in Cape Coral, which has the largest Nile monitor population in Florida, according to the Sun Sentinel.
The lizards are not normally agressive toward humans, but they have sharp claws and may defend themselves if aggravated or threatened, the FWC warned.
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