Pets Gone Wild

Pets Gone Wild

In Florida, wildlife officials have struggled for years with a species known as the Burmese python (Python bivittatus), an interloper from Southeast Asia that has taken up what looks like permanent residence in Everglades National Park and other areas of the state. Recent estimates by the National Park Service put their numbers there as high as 100,000.

While the Burmese python is more of a threat to native birds and animals than to people, attacks on humans are known. One horrifying instance of such an attack occurred in 2009. A 2-year-old girl in northern Florida was strangled by an eight-foot Burmese python that belonged to her mother’s boyfriend. As a result the mother and her boyfriend were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Some experts believe the best hope to kill these Burmese python en masse may be a deep and prolonged freeze in southern Florida. However, such a deep freeze could have a devastating effect on the state’s citrus crop, should it occur.

The issue is really greater than just the elimination of the invasive Burmese python. The United States is now awash in invasive species and many are causing ecological damage to native wildlife and vegetation. Florida alone is home to more than 500 species of nonnative fish and wildlife. The list of invasive species now in the United States is extremely long, and includes the Argentine tegu (Salvator merianae), a large lizard that feasts on the eggs of turtles (Pseudemys nelsoni) and alligators (Alligator mississippiensis); the venomous lionfish (Pterois volitans), a marine fish from Asia that is now preying on North American coral reef fishes; the Nile monitor (Varanus niloticus), a lizard from Africa that eats native frogs and crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) eggs; the snakehead (Channa spp.) a three foot predatory fish from Asia that has became permanently established as far north as the Potomac River in Maryland; and the Asian carp (Hypophthalmichthys spp.), a large freshwater fish that leaps out of the water when startled and is threating the ecological balance of the Great Lakes.
Burmese python (Python bivittatus) Invades Florida

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