PALM BEACH COUNTY, FL (WFLX) - Florida Fish and Wildlife is ramping up checks of wildlife permit holders this storm season to make sure owners of exotic animals have plans in place in the event of a major hurricane.
Officers are going from permit holder to permit holder of bigger animals, like pythons or alligators, to make sure there are safeguards in place to prevent an escape of the animal in a storm. "I think about it every time we have a storm and every hurricane season. I think about it almost daily," said Fred Grunwald, a wildlife permit holder in The Acreage.
Grunwald has all sorts of wildlife that many people consider dangerous -- snakes, crocodiles, turtles and lizards -- in his backyard. "It was an eye opener for me when [Hurricane] Wilma came through here," said Grunwald.
Since the last hurricane made landfall in the Sunshine State, FWC has put a big emphasis on requiring permit holders to come up with a plan to prevent the escape of exotic animals during a storm. "I'd be devastated. I'd be worried about not only their safety, but since they are not afraid of people, they (could) become dangerous," said Grunwald.
FWC said it recently adopted a proactive approach: They now go to each permit holder to physically go over their disaster plans.
In the event of a major storm, like a hurricane, most of the animals like lizards and snakes will be put in cages, locked up and then taken to a safe location.
But for the bigger wildlife, like alligators, permit holders said it can be too dangerous and stressful on the animals to move them. Most of the time, the owners will stay with their animals throughout the storm. "I will not leave this residence. I do not care what kind of storm we're going to have. I have too much responsibility," said Grunwald.
FWC said it also makes permit holders file paperwork of their plans with the state.