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The Big Squeeze

June 3, 2016

Most people are now aware of the python problem in the Florida Everglades. We didn’t see any on our trip through the mangroves, but our guide, Captain Dave, had much to say about the region’s invasive reptiles.

           

A fallacy has taken root, convincing people that these invasive Burmese pythons were released into the Everglades by pet owners who didn’t want them anymore, but it turns out this is an urban myth. Eight hundred of these reptiles were freed when Hurricane Andrew destroyed a breeding facility in 1992. One can only question the wisdom of allowing anyone to breed an invasive species in the backyard of the Everglades. Word of the release was quickly reported to authorities, raising the alarm that these snakes could soon become an environmental hazard since they have no predators and eat anything and everything. But the authorities, busy with other hurricane-related challenges such as numerous deaths and seven billion dollars in damage, failed to respond.

           

Captain Dave, our Everglades guide, hates these creatures with a passion and has participated in several hunts to eliminate them. According to Captain Dave, female pythons can lay a hundred eggs at a time and are extremely hard to catch, despite the fact that they can reach twenty feet in length. They blend with the color and shape of mangrove trunks, and a seventeen-foot python can be inches away without being spotted. More pythons are run over by cars than killed by hunters.

           

Pythons are voracious eaters and without natural predators they’ve consumed most of the raccoons, opossums, rabbits and other small animals in the Everglades, along with vulnerable bird eggs. Captain Dave is worried; these snakes are now running out of food. He told us that not long ago if a chocolate cake was left unattended it would be eaten by animals in a few hours, but today that cake could remain untouched for weeks. These days, pythons are growing longer but leaner and are on the move for new prey—like small children.

 

Captain Dave told us about the time he and a buddy went on a snake hunt and hadn’t been able to find anything, but that night he felt something strange on the outside of his tent. He called his buddy on a cellphone—his buddy was in a tent nearby—and told him something was cuddled up beside him for warmth. The culprit turned out to be an eighteen-foot python, which they quickly killed. According to Captain Dave, these invasive reptiles have also appeared in Georgia, Texas, the Carolinas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi.

           

Burmese pythons aren’t the only invasive species found in the Everglades. While we were there, four crocodiles were discovered. Hardly unusual since Florida has an abundance of both alligators and crocodiles, only these crocs were not native to Florida. They’re Nile crocodiles, known to grow as big as a truck and the cause of more African deaths than any other animal. Like pythons, they have no natural predator.

           

I think I’ll stop complaining about Oregon’s chilly winters. Pythons and crocodiles can’t survive here. If you have evidence to the contrary, please keep it to yourself. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: Photos courtesy of the Internet.

 

 

 

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Comments

27 Comments
And I've been whining about at 6 foot long chicken snake eating my eggs. R
By: Rick Watson on June 3, 2016
I had just read about the Nile crocodiles, but i had no idea of the true origin of Florida's pythons
By: Mitchell is Moving on June 3, 2016
I did think these reptiles were let out by former owners so this is a surprise. It is very sad when a species is let loose and destroys the natural animals species of that area. I bet small dogs and cats are dinner for these reptiles also. Now if i woke up with that thing curled beside me, I am not sure I could remain that calm
By: Birgit on June 3, 2016
Shame zoos can't come in and get them. Really scary to think something as big and deadly as a Nile crocodile is hanging out in Florida.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on June 3, 2016
My friend who lives in Central Florida was warned about a python in her area and it wasn't until a week later after a very cold winter night that they found it dead across their driveway!!
By: Tabor on June 3, 2016
It's crazy what people will allow in environmentally sensitive areas. The release of stoats in New Zealand is just about wiping out the iconic kiwi.
By: Jenny woolf on June 3, 2016
As Rodney King said, "Why can't we all just get along?"
By: fishducky on June 3, 2016
The Keys and everglades have their issues. While the rest of the state are dealing with sinkholes. Nice place to visit.
By: Daniel LaFrance on June 3, 2016
thanks for explaining the hurricane's influence on these critters getting loose in the first place.
By: TexWisGirl on June 3, 2016
Pardon my language, but Jesus H! Now I'm glad I can't afford to visit the nether regions of my state. I know an alligator farm exists somewhere near Gainesville. I hate to think of a disaster setting those monsters free. I have never seen an alligator, crocodile, or snake here in Northern Florida. I have seen rats. The large feral cat population has no interest in the rats because they are too well fed by all the well meaning people who put out food and water for them. The rats also eat the cat food. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on June 3, 2016
Even though i'm a snake fan, i do not like them out of their proper environment.
By: messymimi on June 3, 2016
Thanks for report. As they used to say, "It's not nice to mess with mother nature!"
By: Tom Cochrun on June 3, 2016
I could never live somewhere with such big snakes. I came across a molted snake-skin about 2 feet ling by our water tank six months ago - and I've been too afraid to go back out there to check the water level again! I'd make hubby do it, but he's even more scared of snakes than I am. We make the handyman do it. LOL!
By: Lexa Cain on June 3, 2016
I don't think I'd be picking these puppies up. We still have a lot to learn about invasive species.
By: red Kline on June 3, 2016
It's really creepy when they show pictures of pythons and alligators fighting each other. I definitely wouldn't want to live around there.
By: PT Dilloway on June 3, 2016
Yeah...don't mess with Mother Nature! They have python hunts now (with reward money for pythons brought in), but didn't get nearly as many as they'd hoped. Our local paper had a front page article about the Nile crocodiles. It said these crocodiles are responsible for about 200 fatalities annually in their native area while sharks worldwide kill an average of six people annually. Scary!
By: Pixel Peeper on June 3, 2016
Holy cannoli. Another reason to not to retire to Florida. I don't think me or the fat basset would stand much of a chance in our olden days. I think I just stay put in Idaho thank you very much.
By: Mr. Shife on June 3, 2016
When species get introduced - accidentally or otherwise - it usually ends in problems. I pity the Australians. However, if pythons developed a taste for chocolate cake would that restore the balance of nature?
By: Botanist on June 3, 2016
And THEN there are Florida's walking catfish! Not as scary, but just as invasive. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2_9EURKjEk
By: Val on June 3, 2016
ummm that is so scary I'll stick to my local native predators here in the mountains of Northern California! They might have fangs, but aren't threatening our environment and safety.
By: Kathe W. on June 4, 2016
I didn't think much of Florida before, and I think even less of it now. First the heat, then the humidity, now this! ;)
By: scott park on June 4, 2016
Well, that's another reason for me to skip Florida when I travel to the States. Thanks for the tips. :-) Greetings from London.
By: A Cuban In London on June 4, 2016
I have visited Florida several times but thankfully not the Keys or the Everglades. And PEOPLE (if you can call them that) still live in cabins or shacks in the glades. Nuts!
By: Catalyst on June 4, 2016
Oh...dear...Lord. Alligators, sharks, flying cockroaches, now THESE? And people vacation there?
By: Al Penwasser on June 5, 2016
I would think that alligators would eat the pythons.
By: Sage on June 5, 2016
(JOKE) I will be happy to eliminate any chocolate cakes that people are silly enough to leave about... :) And ya know, these snakes are a BUNCH bigger than the one I was asked to remove from the lady's bathtub, and I was spooked by that one! Cat
By: Cat on June 5, 2016
Oh geesh, that is ridiculous! I don't understand why authorities aren't worried more about this. I don't like snakes...period! I heard about the Nile croc, but wasn't paying attention. Sounds like more people do need to focus on this and be proactive about it.
By: Terri@Coloring Outside the Lines on June 6, 2016

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