Owners of exotic, illegal pets offered amnesty this weekend

- At the Boyd Hill Nature Preserve in St. Petersburg, you can find lizards, raccoons, and squirrels. Unfortunately, two tegu lizards - a non-native species - have found refuge there, too. 

"Some unethical person came in here and released something into our environment here that is really going to hurt our preserve," said Jim House of Friends of Boyd Hill. 

The tegus will eat native tortoise eggs, and those tortoises are the same ones who help build shelters for other native species. 

"So you can't really release an invasive species into the environment without it impacting somehow," explained House. 

"Our entire preserve is surrounded by residents, and all those people have pets," added Jason Cowen, president of Friends of Boyd Hill. "Throughout the years we have faced issues with having non-natives in our preserve." 

That's why the preserve, along with Florida Fish and Wildlife, have partnered up to hold an Exotic Pet Amnesty Day this weekend. 

"That's very important to FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) that we give the public an opportunity to surrender these unwanted pets without having to feel like they need to release them into the wild," said FWC spokeswoman Melody Kilborn. 

Pets like African tortoises, boas, and ball pythons are all invasive species. This is pet owners' chance to give them up without causing harm to the natives.

For weeks, applications for adopting these non-native animals have been taken. 

The Exotic Pet Amnesty Day will be held at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Every attempt will be made to place all healthy animals with qualified adopters. 

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