Monday, February 10, 2014

Florida's Invasive Snakes

jasonleonsnakeFlorida Fish and Wildlife officials report that engineers working in the Everglades this month discovered a Burmese python measuring 18 feet, 2 inches. It’s almost a state record but that was set last year when a python measuring 18 feet, 8 inches was discovered.

The almost 19 foot record holder was spotted crossing a highway by Florida resident Jason Leon. Leon leapt out of his vehicle, grabbed the snake, and dragged it into the middle of the road. The python attempted to wrap around the man’s legs at which point Leon pulled out a knife and killed the monstrous 128 pound snake.

The Burmese python is one of the largest constrictors in the world and is one of the most troubling invasive species roaming southern Florida. In their native habitat of Southeast Asia, the snakes can reach lengths of over 20 feet.

Wildlife officers blame the invasion on exotic pet owners who dump snakes in the glades when the animals become too big to manage. The environment in southern Florida is suitable for the constrictors and the population has thrived. Officials now believe that the python population has grown to as many as 150,000 snakes in the Everglades.

In 2013, the state launched a “Python Challenge” which encouraged registered participants to capture as many pythons as they could. The challenge began on January 12th and ended February 10th. Participants were allowed to operate in ten state wildlife management areas in the Everglades. Cash prizes were awarded to those who captured the largest number of snakes and those who captured the longest constrictors. In total, 68 pythons were captured during the challenge.

Pythons aren’t the only invasive snake in the Everglades. In fact, the world’s largest snake has also made its way to Florida and it may be an even bigger problem than the invading pythons.

The biggest, heaviest snake in the world, the Anaconda, has also been discovered in the sunshine state. The anaconda is a native of South America and, like the python, is a non-venomous constrictor.
Unlike pythons however, anacondas are found in the water as much as on land making them even harder to locate.

Reports have begun to surface of massive anacondas being spotted by people fishing in the Everglades. If the stories are even halfway accurate, there may well be a breeding population of invasive anacondas prowling the waters of the glades. The Everglades is expansive and covers an area of 734 square miles. Few people venture deep into the glades, so it would certainly be possible for such a large species of snake to thrive there without attracting much attention. But could they be as massive as some witness claim or is it all a fisherman’s tale? Giant snake legends can be found in many parts of the world and Florida’s Everglades is certainly a prime spot for one to exist.

In the meantime, Florida Fish and Wildlife has been concerned enough about the anaconda to include descriptions of it in the study guide given out during the 2013 python challenge.
Invasive snakes are having a devastating effect on native wildlife in the region. While the 2013 Python Challenge helped, it has not eliminated the problem of the growing population of constrictors.


No comments:

Post a Comment