Citing threats from non-native species, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has expanded limits on animals that can be bought, sold or kept as pets in the state.
Owners of newly listed species, legally called wild animals and varying from Argentine black and white tegus to Everglades crayfish, have a year to meet most of the requirements. This allows pet owners to register and tag six reptile species added, businesses to sell animals acquired before the changes took effect and people ineligible for a permit or license to find their animals an appropriate home.
The 12-month grace period begins Dec. 4, the effective date of the rules approved by the state Board of Natural Resources, and applies to specific reptiles, fishes and invertebrates as detailed in the rules. However, even animals eligible for the grace period cannot be imported or bred after Dec. 4.
Dr. Brett Albanese, an assistant chief with DNR’s Wildlife Conservation Section, said the “relatively long grace period gives animal owners and businesses plenty of time to transition to the new rules.” The process also guards against owners feeling pressured to make a quick change. Albanese stressed that releasing animals into the wild is illegal and counters efforts to protect wildlife from non-native species.
Changes to the list, the first since 1994, include animals that pose a threat to Georgia wildlife or people and update the scientific names for some species. Biologists decided which animals to add by reviewing non-native species documented in Georgia and nearby states and scientific publications assessing the ecological risks and any inherent danger to humans.
One example is Argentine black and white tegus. While popular as pets, the big South American lizards are spreading in parts of Florida and have established a population in south Georgia’s Toombs and Tattnall counties. DNR is working with partners and area landowners to assess and eradicate that wild population. Escapes or illegal releases have also led to tegus turning up in the wild elsewhere in Georgia. Argentine black and white tegus grow up to 4 feet long and eat everything from eggs to small animals.
Albanese stressed, however, that the list changes cover a wide range of wild animals, from monk parakeets and silver carp to mongooses and potentially invasive crayfish. Listed species, how to register animals and more details are at https://georgiawildlife.com/rules-pertaining-wild-animals.
Georgia law distinguishes wild animals from wildlife that are native to the state as well as species normally considered domestic. The state regulates wild animals that pose threats to wildlife, other natural resources or people, or create problems with enforcing wildlife laws and regulations.
The Board of Natural Resources, which can only add to the wild animal list, approved the rules Oct. 25. The changes take effect Dec. 4, triggering the 12-month grace period for some provisions.
DNR’s Wildlife Conservation Section works to conserve native wildlife not legally fished for or hunted, plus rare plants and natural habitats.
For more information, visit https://georgiawildlife.com/conservation/annualreport.