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FWC exotic pet amnesty day hits Brevard Zoo

Owners can surrender exotic pets from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday

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VIERA, Fla. – The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will hold an Exotic Pet Amnesty Day on Saturday at Brevard Zoo in Viera, News 6 partner Florida Today reports.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. owners can surrender their exotic pets at the event without penalty or cost, whether their pet is being kept legally or illegally. The amnesty helps to reduce the number of nonnative species being released into the wild.

Almost all the exotic pets go to preapproved adopters, except for the very sickest of animals, FWC says. Rarely, those must be euthanized.

Owners wishing to get rid of exotic pets can call FWC throughout the year, but the special amnesty days speed up the process, which otherwise can take months.

FWC held its first exotic pet amnesty day in 2014.

Many exotic animals lack natural predators in Florida, so they can overwhelm native species.

Burmese pythons are creating ecological havoc in the Everglades. As with the invasive lionfish, the exotic snakes can tolerate lower temperatures than previously thought, enabling the reptilian invaders to spread farther north in Florida. Salty waters don't seem to slow them much, either.

FWC will accept only exotic pets during Saturday's event, not dogs, cats or any other domesticated animals.

Armed with shotguns, state wildlife officials in recent years have patrolled canals in Palm Beach County, looking to kill back an established colony of Nile monitor lizards.

Foreclosures, health problems and the animal living longer than expected are among the most common reasons owners cite for needing to get rid of their exotic pet, FWC officials say. But often a new home for the animal proves elusive. So some dump them in the wild, which is illegal.

Saturday's event is targeted toward anyone with an exotic pet they can't care for. Those typically include pond turtles, iguanas and exotic birds. Other times, the unexpected arrives. In Broward County in 2012, someone dropped off a South American coati — a hog-nosed raccoon-like mammal.

Florida already has more than 40 established populations of alien lizards, researchers have found.