Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Possibly Worse Than Kudzu

The Burmese Python is a popular (and legal) pet snake in the United States. In the last five years, there have been nearly 150,000 Burmese pythons imported into the US, and hatchlings can sell for as little as $20. But once the cute baby snakes turn into 15-foot-long beasts, owners often turn them loose into the wild. The snakes are perfectly at home in the Everglades’ water, heat, and vegetation, and they have no predators.

"All of the Burmese pythons that we see in the park are a product of the international pet trade," said Skip Snow, a wildlife biologist at Everglades National Park. Snow’s office maintains a "python sightings" hotline so people can alert them to snakes on the loose. Since the mid-1990s, park rangers have had to respond to a steadily increasing number of calls about Burmese pythons in Everglades National Park. The problem is getting much worse now because the snakes are most certainly breeding in the park. Some estimates extend to over 10,000 pythons in the center of the Everglades.

Wildlife officials are worried because the snakes, which can grow to 20 feet long, also prey on native mangrove fox squirrels and wood storks, and they could be competing with the eastern indigo snake for both food and space. The eastern indigo snake is listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a threatened species. There are also increasing serious concerns about human safety as well, since the mammoth snakes are able to subdue and kill alligators, which are much stronger than human beings.
Check out a related DVD in Government Documents: Defending Favorite Places (A 13.140:IN 8/DVD). This 26 minute DVD explains how hunters and anglers can help stop the spread of invasive species.

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