Invasive Pythons Destroy Biodiversity of the Everglades

People have long warned about the threat to Florida’s native wildlife posed by the exploding population of non-native reptiles, especially pythons and anacondas. Now a new study has confirmed that “biodiversity” in the everglades has already been permanently altered:

Florida’s native wildlife populations might be in jeopardy, thanks largely to the invasive Burmese pythons.

Officials have struggled for years to find an effective solution to deal with these giant snakes, and a new study suggests that the growing number of snakes might be rapidly decimating mammal populations in the Everglades.

“Pythons are wreaking havoc on one of America’s most beautiful, treasured and naturally bountiful ecosystems,” Marcia McNutt, U.S. Geological Survey Director, told USA Today.
The snakes have been quietly proliferating over the last few decades. According to USA Today, reports of the python’s presence in Florida began in the 1980s. And a breeding population wasn’t confirmed until 2000.

The researchers conducted their study in the Everglades National Park using nightly road surveys to observe the number of live and road-killed animals. They found a severe decrease in the frequency of animal encounters that were abundant prior to 2000. Data gathered from 2003 to 2011 show a 99.3 percent decrease in raccoon sightings, 98.9 percent for opossum and 87.5 percent for bobcats. The researchers could not find any rabbits.

The timeframe for the rapid decline of sightings for these animal species, in juxtaposition with the establishment of the pythons, leads the researchers to believe that the snakes might be a main factor changing Florida’s biodiversity.

Ya’ think? The report referenced can be found here and is interesting reading.

In 2010 Florida began launched a season for hunting these beasts that happened right after small game hunting season. The season begins in early March and runs until mid-April. Anyone with a valid Florida hunting license can plunk down and extra $26 and go kill themselves some pythons (and anacondas, monitor lizards and other invasive reptiles) but that might not be enough incentive to hunt this elusive, dangerous creature. In the same article I found that information wildlife officials claimed there could be tens of thousands of these snakes in Florida, mostly in the everglades. That was a 2010 estimate.

It could be many more now. Here’s a picture I dug up of a female python that was caught and cut open in 2009. That’s 57 egg sacs inside her – each containing a little python ready to rampage through Florida.

On the plus side you can sell the meat and skin of any pythons you take. That can make you a pretty penny in a down economy. The down side is that to apply for the permit you not only need to take a GPS and camera with you on every hunt you need to prove that you have experience handling large snakes, capturing wild snakes and “humanely euthanizing” reptiles. Sounds like an old boys club to me but I could be reading that wrong.

Rasch outdoor chronicles has an old post that talks about what kind of guns and ammo might be used to hunt one of these monster snakes. We daydreamers will just have to stick to reading those articles and dreaming of our everglades adventure.

The Register has more.

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