Veiled Chameleon (above) found in Florida. Photograph by Nick Scobel.
Chameleons were first detected in Florida in 2002. Chameleons are arboreal (tree swelling) lizards which are native to Africa, Madagascar, southern Europe, and southeast Asia. They have prehensile tails which they use to hold onto tree branches, and cone-shapped eyes that can swivel in different directions allowing them to look two ways at once. There have been several species of Chameleon’s found loose in Florida including the Senegal Chameleon, White-lined Chameleon, Oustalet’s Chameleon, Panther Chameleon, Jackson’s Chameleon, and Meller’s Chameleon. While many have been seen, only two species are known to have isolated populations in Florida – the Oustalet’s and Veiled Chameleons.
Oustalet’s Chameleons are Madagascar natives and are one of the largest species of chameleons in the world. Male individuals can grow to be over 24 inches long, and females stay quite a bit smaller.
A very detailed fact sheet on the Oustalet’s Chameleon’s is provided by the Maryland Zoo and can be found here: http://www.marylandzoo.org/assets/Oustalets-Chamelon-Fact-Sheet-2014.pdf
Veiled Chameleon’s are native to the Arabian Peninsula. This very pretty species have large domes on their heads, and can reac 12-24 inches in length. Hatchlings are pastel green, but as they grow these animals become a beautiful array of yellow, blue, orange, and black with white mottling seen in females.
More information on these animals can be found here: http://www.animalspot.net/veiled-chameleon.html
Oustalet's Chameleon found in Florida. Photographed by Christopher Gillette.
While Chameleon’s are still nonnative to Florida’s ecosystems, their threat to native animals has not thoroughly been explored yet. They are known to eat insects, small frogs, lizards, and small birds, which indicates they are competing with native lizards for food and a potential threat to smaller birds. Studies so far have shown the Oustalet’s Chameleons to eat agricultural pests and nonnative animals, however that could change depending on the location of the population. In Hawaii, the Veiled chameleon is a threat to native birds, insects, and plants – which leaves room for concern for the Florida ecosystem.
An issue associated with the removal of these animals from Florida’s wild is that people tend to move them to different locations (causing spread to new areas). People also are responsible for the introduction of more species, which makes eradication of these animals in the wild a constant effort. Right now Chameleons have been found in Florida City, Fort Meyers, and other species have been found in Lee, Collier, Miami-Dade, and Broward counties.
Although Chameleons have not made a huge hit to the ecosystem in Florida yet, they easily could be the next "Burmese Python" and wipe out prey species for other natives, and in doing so drive the native animals to dwindling numbers. These nonnative animals do not belong here- and even without a proven impact, in 20 or 30 years they may be the next "Florida Invader". It is a very sad thought that humans are causing the decline in native animals here in Florida - as a pet owner, please remember to not release your pets! Re-home them, donate them, or bring them back to pet store facilities where they were purchased. Please be a responsible pet owner and don't let them loose!
About the Author:
Jenna is a Wildlife Ecology and Conservation student at the University of Florida. Her primary work is research, control, and removal of nonnative and invasive animals found throughout south Florida.
Many people have the false assumption that with a ferret's smaller size, they should be less expensive than owning a dog or cat. While that might be true in regards to food costs, it certainly is not the case with their veterinary care. Ferrets require rabies vaccines and annual exams just like dogs and cats. Canine distemper vaccines are also recommended for ferrets by many veterinarians, although opinions vary. A typical lifespan for a ferret is five to ten years, although some may live up to ten years. Unfortunately, they are prone to a variety of diseases such as adrenal disease, insulinoma. Ferrets are also mischievous and can easily get into trouble which might cause a costly emergency vet visit. All of these factors add up! To help give potential ferret owners an idea of their future costs, we have broken down the costs by year for three of our ferrets.
Sophie passed away in February 2017 at the age of six years old. Gambit and Samson are still with us. Gambit is currently six years old and was diagnosed with insulinoma earlier this year. Samson is currently five years old. When ferrets are younger, an annual and well visit can cost between $50 and $75. As they get older, it is recommended that they have their blood work done which can increase the cost by $140 or more. Surgeries are often extremely costly. In 2014, Samson got access to a screwdriver and decided to chew on it. He knocked out one of his fangs at the gum line and had to have surgery to remove the remnants of the tooth. Samson had a second surgery in 2017 when he had strange bumps on his toe pads and also had his spleen aspirated as it has been enlarged, which is common for older ferrets.
In 2016, Sophie started showing health problems which required treatment. In 2017 she was euthanized when her quality of life decreased to a point that it was unlikely that she would recover. It was believed that she had contracted the ferret version of FIP which can happen to some ferrets who are exposed to ECE and then the virus mutates to something similar to FIP.
Since Gambit's diagnosis of insulinoma, it costs roughly $130 per month for him to have his glucose level checked and to have his medications refilled. This cost may increase as the disease progresses. For some ferrets with insulinoma, surgery may be an option. At six years old, surgery seems to be an unnecessary stress on his system.
With multiple ferrets, the health costs will be higher. Here at Ferrets and Friends, we think our ferrets are worth every penny!
About the blog
Ferrets and Friends, LLC has four writers bringing you information on a variety of topics from pets to wildlife, education to conservation, and from new developments in our business to information about our industry. Learn something new each week!