Florida contains over five hundred exotic species, or nonnative species. Not all exotic species are a threat to Florida’s ecosystem. It seems that most of these exotic species were recorded to have been established in the wild around the 1960’s and 1970’s, with some even dating back to the 1900’s. Most of the time, nonnative species cause a threat to either our ecosystem, cause human safety and health concerns, cause harm to native species, and or cause economic damage. Nonnative species are typically brought in by illegal pet trade either by boats overseas, international mail, and the internet. Most of the time exotic pets get released or escape from their owner(s). Currently Florida is dealing with and concentrating on ridding of Cuban treefrogs, Monk parakeets, Nile monitor lizards, and Gambian pouched rats. The Everglades is the perfect climate for any tropical invasive species, like the Burmese python, Florida’s most dangerous invasive species yet.
PHOTOGRAPH BY KATLA SRIKANTH
Did you know that Burmese pythons are one of the largest snakes in the world? Because Burmese pythons are semi-aquatic, the Everglades makes the perfect climate for breeding grounds. The Burmese is native to India, lower China, the Malay Peninsula and some islands of the East Indies.. Burmese pythons can no longer be obtained as pets in Florida. In fact,
“They are also federally listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as an Injurious Species under the Lacey Act which prevents the importation of pythons into the United States and also prohibits the snakes from being transported across state lines.” –Florida Wildlife Conservation
Burmese pythons have been recorded since the 1980’s in the Everglades, with the most likely probability they escaped from a breeding facility during Hurricane Andrew. So why exactly do these pythons cause such a threat to Florida’s ecosystem? They have virtually no predators besides large alligators and humans. The impacts of the Burmese are highly concerning. They kill many native species, some that may be endangered such as the Florida Panther. These giant snakes seem to even be eating alligators and busting because they are too large for them to eat. That just shows you what the Burmese python is all about. A reptile that isn’t afraid to be king of the Everglades, no matter what it takes.
It is our responsibility to remove the Burmese that causes environmental, economical, and social problems to Florida. The Burmese have been recorded mostly in the Everglades, but have been documented in Naples, showing that they are making their way northwest of the state. You can help reduce python numbers by being a part of the Burmese python solution through Python Patrol, the Python Removal Program or by hunting pythons. In fact, Florida is now accepting applications to hunt Burmese pythons for minimum wage. Go to Florida Fish and Wildlife hunting website to learn more about hunting pythons. It is encouraged to humanely euthanize on private lands at any time with landowner permission, no permit required.
Image courtesy of Rupert Lean
Through hunting, putting a stop on exotic animal trade and education efforts, I think it will still be hard to control the python from roaming Florida. According to Everglades Nation Park, “Burmese pythons are now frequently found in south Florida. More than 2,000 pythons have been removed from the park and surrounding areas since 2002, likely representing only a fraction of the total population.” Nature always has a way of working herself out, but that does not mean we shouldn’t help her. I will end this article how I always end my articles. We are responsible for the damage we have done, first hand or not. We live here, so it is our duty to keep native species out of harm’s way, whether that be by conservation, education or saving them from the big Burmese, even when the problem can be up to 13 ft long.