9 Invasive Animals You Had No Idea Live Wild in the United States

People cross the globe to catch glimpses of zebras, parrots, crocodiles, monkeys and many more exotic animals that, believe it or not, live wild in the United States of America. Here are 9 wild animals that most people have no idea can be found in America.

Lion Fish

There are two nearly indistinguishable species of lion fish that have invaded some of the coastal waters of the United States, first caught off the coast of Florida. Native to the Indo-Pacific Ocean, lion fish can now be found in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Although stunning to look at, these venomous, carnivorous fish have proven detrimental to native species. Scientists uncovered that just one individual lion fish can reduce native reef fishes by more than 75%. According to the USDA, exotic fish cause more than $5 billion of damage. 

Lion fish found in USA

Giant African Snail

Growing up to 8 inches in length and 4 inches in diameter, the three species of giant African Snail found in the USA grow larger than an adult human fist. The Ghana tiger snail, West African snail, and giant African snail have been found in Florida, Hawaii, and Texas. First discovered in Hawaii in 1936, they moved to mainland thirty years later imported through the pet trade. These giants destroy natural vegetation at an unprecedented rate compared to native snails and can quickly destroy large patches of agricultural areas. 

Giant African Snail found across the USA

Macaques 

Smack dab in central Florida, along the Silver River, hundreds of rhesus macaques swing through the trees. Native to the forests of South/Central Asia, a dozen were introduced  a dozen macaques were released in Silver Springs State Park to boost tourism in the 1930’s. By 2012 state officials had removed nearly 1000 Old World monkeys that had completely overpopulated the area. The capture efforts caused great controversy in the state, and efforts to remove more macaques was halted. The last official count, taken in 2015, found 5 groups totaling almost 200 individuals. Researches estimate that this population will double by 2022.

Wild macaque old world monkey in USA

Zebras

More than 100 zebras graze along the stunning Pacific Coast Highway near the Hearst Castle. At one point the estate owned by William Hearst was the largest private zoo in the world. Following his death in 1951, the herd was released into the wild and has never strayed too far from the original site between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Wild zebras in California, USA

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Parrots

There were two native parrot species in the United States (the Carolina parakeet and thick-billed parrot) both of which became locally extinct in the 20th century. Today there are several feral parrot species numbering tens of thousands of individuals that can be found in Florida, California, Texas, New York, Michigan, Connecticut, Illinois, Rhode Island and New Jersey. During winter months, many of the birds that travel east perish each year. Budgerigars, rose ringed parakeets, nanny conures, green-cheeked Amazon parrots, monk parrots and chestnut fronted macaws have all been spotted. 

Wild parrots in the USA

Nile Crocodile

Between 2000 and 2014 two crocodiles were captured in Florida that, after DNA analysis, most closely related to Nile crocodiles native to Africa. Capable of growing to 18 feet in length, the Nile crocodile actively preys on cattle, reptiles, mammals, birds and even people. The species was responsible for 493 attacks on humans between 2010 and 2014, with more than 70% of those resulting in fatalities. There are 4 other non-native crocodilians in Florida, the slender snouted crocodile, spectacled caiman, smooth-fronted caiman and the Cuvier’s dwarf caiman. 

Two nile crocodiles in USA

Northern Snakehead

This terrifying species of fish carries shark like teeth and is known to ‘walk’ across land. A carnivorous fish native to Asia, the Northern Snakehead is a dominant predator that actively feasts in American waters from California to New York. Snakeheads can breathe atmospheric oxygen, allowing them to travel on land spreading to different waterways. Adults are capable of eating reptiles, birds and mammals.

A Northern Snakehead walking fish in the USA
Northern snakehead fish. Photo: U.S. Geological Survey Archive, U.S. Geological Survey, Bugwood.org

Killer Bees aka Africanized Bee

These bees first arrived in the United States in 1990 and have since spread to several states across the nation. There are giant killer bees found in California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Florida, and Louisiana. The dangers of these bees on humans is not as deadly as the name suggests, but they are known to repeatedly sting victims up to 1000 times. The true hazard caused by an Africanized bee is the damage they do to native species who are much more effective pollinators. Killer bees infiltrate the hives of local inhabitants, destroying the queen and taking it over with relative ease.  

Killer bee // pest.org

Cane Toad

These venomous toads pose a major threat towards many native species of birds, mammals and reptiles that often feed on toads. Introduced to control sugar cane fields, they have since spread from their native homes in South America and are found in Florida, California, Texas and Hawaii. In Australia, this invasive amphibian reaches millions of individuals causing a serious crisis among indigenous wildlife. 

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