Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Alligator no longer “king” of the Everglades?
In 1992 Hurricane Andrew crossed the Southern tip of Florida leaving 26.5 billion dollars worth of damage and killing 40 people. Pet stores were not spared from the destruction of this storm. Burmese Pythons were among many of the pets to escape as well as African rock pythons and boa constrictors. Pythons are not native to the Florida everglades however but large pythons like these are highly adaptable to new environments. With 45 different species of mammals, the Florida everglades offer the python a wide variety of prey including Cotton Mouse, Key Largo Wood Rat, Opossums, Raccoon, and Wild Hogs. In some situations pythons have even killed and eaten alligators. Having a climate similar to its native home of Southeast Asia, the Burmese python is able to breed in the everglades. Although the exact number of Burmese pythons is unknown, it is estimated to be in the thousands. Ironically in the Burmese python is listed as “near threatened” in Asia. This is partially due to pet trade.
It is widely accepted that there are in fact pythons in the Florida Everglades capable of breeding. Now there are reports of these exotic snakes entering suburban areas. Special snake control teams in fire departments, Animal Control, and law enforcements have even been put in place to help deal with this increasing problem. Although these snakes are mostly feeding on pets, many are concerned that the snake may add humans to its diet. 7, 10, and 12 foot pythons are becoming more and more common and one of the largest pythons captured measured 22 feet in 1990. Although these powerful creatures could be capable of strangling a human to death there have been no known deaths caused by the python in Florida. Many biologists question the ability of the python to consume human prey due to the wide span of the human shoulders. However, there have been unconfirmed reports of pythons eating human prey world-wide. One such report came from police in Malaria in 1995.
Is seems clear that the Burmese Python is happy and healthy in its new home. But how will the native species of the Everglades adapt to their new predator? Like many other newly introduced species to the south, will the Burmese Python population extend north?
Initial Information taken from
History Channel (Giant Pythons in America)
Supplemental Information gathered from
National Geographic News Watch
National Park Service
US department of the Interior