Friday, July 24, 2009

Pythons On The Loose

In a recent USA Today I read an article entittled "Everglades May Host Python Hunts". This is a result of a recent event where a 2-year old girl in Florida was strangled to death by a 9 foot pet Burmese python that had escaped from its enclosure. It is also due to the fact that this exotic snake has been turning up in the Everglades and the Florida Keys. It is believed by some officials that as many as 150,000 of these monsters could be roaming in Southern Florida.

The Burmese python is not native to this country and its presence is believed to be the result of pet owners, who thought it was “cool” to own a python and then turned it loose once it became evident how large they become. Some also believe that it could be the result of these snakes escaping from pet stores that were damaged during Hurricane Andrew. You have to realize this- we’re talking about a python, not your typical pet garter snake. They are closely related to anacondas, and can grow to a length of 26 feet and can weigh as much as 200 pounds. They hide and ambush prey by grabbing it with its strong jaws and then entwining it with its body and killing by strangulation. Not a very pleasant way to go. A female can lay 25 or more eggs in a single clutch and has no natural predators in Florida. It can consume animals as large as deer and in fact one was photographed that had attempted to swallow a large alligator, but ended up bursting due to the alligator’s size. The fear is that these snakes will not only damage the ecosystem of Florida (and where ever else they decide to go) by preying on indigenous as well as rare species of birds and mammals, but also pose a threat to humans. There are only a few states that ban large constrictors and now Florida is considering passing a bill that would regulate ownership by requiring owners to: Pay $100 annual permits, implant a microchip in its skin if it is wider than 2 inches so it can be tracked and found if it escapes, and prove their snake handling skills. The hunting of these snakes, for now, will only involve qualified herpetologists who will euthanize and study (location found, size, gut contents) any pythons captured to help them better their understanding of this snakes survival requirements. Due to the fact that the female creates heat for her eggs via shivering, scientist believe they can use thermal imaging to locate nests to further help eradicate it.

Anyone considering any kind of snake as a pet should first do the research on its natural history beforehand.
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