Wednesday, February 1, 2012

TiStF | Pythons taking over the Everglades

I was born in south Florida, some many years ago. As a child living on the west coast with relatives on the east coast, my father and I took many road trips down "Alligator Alley." At the time, it was an unlit, two lane highway cutting through the Everglades. 90 miles or so. No gas stations, no guard rails, no traffic lights. If you were a five year old and had to pee, you held it - or took your chances on the side of the road that a gator or a panther would come up and eat you.

The upshot of that trip was that sugar cane grew wild on the Miami side. Hack a stalk down with a machete and it would last longer than any tootsie pop. Very 1970's, hmm? Yes.

This article on Yahoo caught my eye. According to it, The National Park Service has counted 1,825 Burmese pythons that have been caught in and around Everglades National Park since 2000. Among the largest so far was a 156-pound, 16.4-foot one captured earlier this month.

And now, the smaller mammals that live in the Everglades are slowly disappearing. Imagine that.

Two things happen. One is that pet snakes get too big for their owners - so the clever owner turns it out into the wild, thinking to do both himself and the pet snake a favor. Good idea, bad implementation. Better to take it to a zoo, or a place devoted specifically to the species.

The other thing that happens in south Florida, is hurricanes. When hurricanes hit, people are saving themselves, their children, their bread and water - and not necessarily their pets. Maybe their dogs, but your 10' python isn't fitting in the back of your toyota when you're trying to evacuate. Also, homes and pet shops get storm damage, and those creatures go free. Animals tend to be a bit more resilient to natural disasters than humans, survival instinct and all that. Flooding and power outages and debris keep some storm-ravaged areas unoccupied for days and weeks at a time.

What we end up with is an over population of animals that aren't designed for the particular environment where they end up. A Burmese Python will have no natural predators in the Everglades - because it doesn't belong there.
Although scientists cannot definitively say the pythons are killing off the mammals, the snakes are the prime suspect. The increase in pythons coincides with the mammals' decrease, and the decline appears to grow in magnitude with the size of the snakes' population in an area. A single disease appears unlikely to be the cause since several species were affected.
The report says the effect on the overall ecosystem is hard to predict. Declines among bobcats and foxes, which eat rabbits, could be linked to pythons' feasting on rabbits. On the flip side, declines among raccoons, which eat eggs, may help some turtles, crocodiles and birds.
What's so fantastic about this? Throw this scenario into a fantasy setting. There's some predatory exotic pet that is fashionable to keep. A mighty storm - or war - or dragon fire - ravages the community in question, and suddenly these exotic pets are free. They take up residence in the nearest geographical haven, multiply because their life cycle is uncontested, and next you thing you know you have the cliche' of "The Haunted Forest" filled with man-eating creatures.

Interesting video clip on the situation. Alligator vs Python - it's a draw!

But! Let's go to PBS, where the first python gets eaten. Yay? The second one, however, eats a gator half of its size! Do the math.

Better book those air boat tours to the Everglades now, before it becomes the Python Glades, hmm?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Ha. I didn't expect you to watch gator videos, LOL. Yea, I think of sugar cane when I think of the Everglades. I'm glad I could bring you back a memory, tho, Songbird. :-)


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