Sightings of veiled chameleons throughout southern Florida

There have been a lot of sightings of veiled chameleons throughout southern Florida. The veiled chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus) is a non-native lizard that has been present and breeding in Florida for about ten years. The species is native to the southwestern coastal regions of Saudi Arabia and western Yemen, where it inhabits mountainous coastal regions, inland river valleys and agricultural lands where there is more moisture. In Florida its habit is in low density suburban development areas peripheral to core urban areas, and small towns.

Veiled chameleons are not considered to be a threat to humans, but they might defend themselves when provoked. The threat to native species is unknown, but they could compete for insect prey with native lizards and potentially prey on smaller lizards.

Chameleons are common in pet trade, they eat almost exclusively insects and are excellent climbers.

How can the public help?
Melody Kilborn of The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conversation Commission says to not release nonnative animals into the Florida ecosystem. It is illegal and can be harmful to the native wildlife: “Be a responsible pet owner and know what that animal requires before taking one on as a pet. If you have a veiled chameleon as a pet and no longer want to keep it, please call the Exotic Species Hotline at 1-888-483-3681 or participate in an Exotic Pet Amnesty Day, where pets like these can be surrendered with no penalty and adopted. Veiled chameleons are not protected in Florida, except by anti-cruelty laws, and can be removed from private property year-round with landowner permission.”

Geoffrey Ionescu can be reached at cbnews@newszap.com

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