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Giant Pythons - Invasive Species in the Florida Everglades

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Cynthia is an administrator, has a degree in Business, Economics, & History, and is a qualified Hypnotherapist. She loves to write & travel.

Burmese Python in the Florida Everglades

Burmese Python in the Florida Everglades

So What is a Burmese Python?

While most of the countries of the world are experiencing problems from alien or invasive species of animals, insects and plants to some degree; the problem they currently have in Florida is large, scaly and can swallow an alligator!

Yes folks, the area around the Everglades in Florida is currently experiencing an invasion of Burmese Pythons. Burmese pythons are among the top six largest snakes in the world. They can grow to a length of 20ft and weigh up to 200 pounds.

They are a long lived species of snake, and can live for twenty five years. They are native to Southeast Asia, and can be found in Myanmar, Vietnam, southern China, Thailand and Indonesia. They are a diurnal species of cold-blooded reptile and enjoy living in a habitat that is warm and wet, rich in vegetation and trees, with plenty of streams and rivers. They are equally at home on the ground and in the trees, are excellent climbers and like a good swim.

Being cold blooded they need to bask in the sun for hours at a stretch to warm up enough to be able to move around and hunt for prey. Burmese pythons are pretty eclectic about what they will eat and prey on small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and even other snakes!

Pythons are constrictors, so they grab their prey in a firm grip with their jaws and then wrap their body around the prey to suffocate it. The bigger the Burmese python is, the bigger the prey that it will try to take on.

Ironically, they are considered an endangered species in their native habitats. Historically they were hunted in great numbers for their skins, and there is still a market for young snakes for the exotic pet trade and various parts of their bodies are used in traditional medicine.

Alligator and Python in Florida Everglades

Alligator and Python in Florida Everglades

So How Did Burmese Pythons Arrive in Florida?

So how did these huge snakes show up in large numbers in the Florida Everglades? The US has an extensive exotic pet trade, and in comparison with other countries has fewer regulations on what animals can be kept. As well as snakes, there are lions, tigers, leopards and iguanas being kept in people’s backyards.

Young Burmese pythons can be bought in US pet shops for as little as $20 and most are purchased when they are still quite small. Many of these pythons can become quite tame and, if cared for properly, make very good pets. Quite often they are given the run of a house, or are kept in enclosures that are not strongly constructed enough to contain them. Hence there are a lot of snakes that escape and are never recovered by their owners.

Either people who purchase Burmese pythons are not aware of how big they can grow, or maybe the idea of having a ‘way cool big snake’ is exciting but the reality is not; but many of these snakes are abandoned by their owners when they get too big for their homes and pockets. A Burmese python can grow to full size in four years, growing by as much as a foot every month, and very few people have the knowledge, facilities and expertise to care for a really large snake.

What Are The Pythons Doing to Florida?

So what is the extent of the python damage? The breeding population of pythons in the Florida Everglades was established when Hurricane Andrew swept through the state, and many specimens escaped from pet shops and private homes. Unfortunately the fragile eco-system of the Everglades provides a perfect habitat for the snakes, and it is estimated that there are now upwards of 100,000 of the creatures living there.

The hot, steamy swamplands are full of food for them, and they manage to successfully compete against the only other apex predator to be found there, the alligator. Pythons are notoriously greedy and several battles have been witnessed involving pythons trying to bag an alligator as a meal. There is one set of photographs of a python that managed to kill and eat a large alligator, but the alligator proved too big for it to digest and it had burst the snake open and killed it.

They also eat many of the smaller native reptiles, mammals and birds of the Everglades. Scientists from the Smithsonian have also recently discovered that they are eating birds eggs directly from the nests, which is having is hugely damaging to bird numbers, especially in the already threatened species.

It is not only wildlife and alligators that are being killed by the giant pythons. In early July 2009 an eight foot long specimen broke out of its tank in a Florida home and strangled a two year old girl to death in her crib. The Humane Society of the United States has stated that since 1980 at least twelve people have been killed by pet pythons in the US, including five children. Wildlife experts and local politicians are concerned that sooner or later someone will be killed by a wild snake.

If that someone was a tourist it could have a disastrous effect on the local tourist industry; which brings millions of dollars into the local economy. Rangers have started to hunt the pythons, either killing them or giving them to zoos, and the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is calling for a widespread cull.

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African Rock Pythons Now Adding To The Problem!

The African Rock python is Africa's biggest snake. It can be up to 20ft long, and unlike the relatively docile Burmese pythons, they are extremely vicious and bad tempered. Individual African Rock pythons have been found in Florida since 2002, but a pregnant female and two hatchlings have been found which suggests that they have started breeding.

An African Rock Python can prey on alligators, who are the natural apex predators in the Florida Everglades, and there have even been reported cases of them killing small children in Africa. In January 2010 a three-day hunt in Miami-Dade county captured five of the huge snakes, including a 14ft female.

This has caused state environmental officials to worry that the African Rock pythons could start breeding with the Burmese Pythons. As the Burmese Pythons already have established themselves in the Everglades, there is the worry that a new breed of 'super snake' will emerge and wreak further havoc on the native species.

Are There Any Solutions?

So what can be done to prevent the explosion in the invasive python population and protect the fragile habitat and native species that make up the Florida Everglades? Some experts are predicting that the Burmese python could in time move into and colonise the entire South-eastern third of the United States. This would make the Burmese python the most common and dangerous large predator in North America.

But let us not forget that these large snakes are only where they are because of humans. People need to be more responsible when they are contemplating buying an exotic pet. They need to look at the facilities they have for caring for the animal; do they have the room, the experience, enough money to feed them correctly and pay the vet bills, and have adequate back up to care for the pet when they go on holiday or there is an emergency.

Always research how big your pet is likely to grow to, and if possible go to a zoo and have a good look at a fully grown specimen. Finally, if you do find yourself in a situation where you own a snake that you can no longer care for do not release it into the wild. Contact a zoo or an animal charity and find a good home for your pet!

Copyright 2009 CMHypno on HubPages

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 CMHypno


CMHypno (author) from Other Side of the Sun on September 11, 2012:

As I haven't seen Birte around for months, I think that you may be wasting your energy. But if this is an issue that you feel so passionate about, why not start a forum thread which will be much more interactive and you could get a good debate going?

Shaddie from Washington state on September 09, 2012:

I think you clearly missed the sarcasm in my comments directed to BirteEdwards.

CMHypno (author) from Other Side of the Sun on September 09, 2012:

Hate to tell you Shaddie, but invasive feral dogs and cats are some of the most destructive animals on the planet to native species and delicate ecosystems. It's not about what pets you choose, it's about caring for those animals responsibly and not releasing them into the wild as soon as they become to much to handle or people get fed up with them. We humans have responsibilities as well as rights, you know and helping preserve our native wildlife and habitatsis one of them.

Shaddie from Washington state on September 08, 2012:

How nice it must be to tell people "humans have enough domestic animals to choose from, you don't need any other pets." It must be nice to be able to tell people who are closely connected to exotics that they can just live without them. How nice it must be to only want for dogs and cats.

muddzy1 on September 04, 2012:

well i agree with you all that we have a problem with these pythons but has anyone secsesfully cross bred these different snakes if so do they take on the stronger propreties of the two or might they thke on weaker ones they may not be able to over come they would never have had this problem if left alone ,being from so far apart, i beleive the storm caused this but they never should have been there .everywhere we change even something as small as a plant we set up this process were trying to put things back now all over but change has already taken to good a hold it's a shame . its a shame .i dont think we can get rid of the burmese and things we brought on but lets have all the facts before we throw good money after bad because of media hysteria but lets stop making the same mistakes over and over , anyway we are the real invaisive in the glades if we weren't there they wouldn't be there Thank You muddzy1

CMHypno (author) from Other Side of the Sun on March 31, 2012:

Thanks for reading the hub on pythons in the Everglades Shaddie. Getting to the real truth of any situation is always complex, so thanks for your insights. Invasive species are a problem facing many parts of the world, and it is hoped that things that are learned in one region, will be able to be used in others

Shaddie from Washington state on March 30, 2012:

The supposed "invasion" of Burmese pythons is grossly exaggerated by the media. Do not buy into the hype and sensationalism that it promotes. The "experts" that theorize that Burms will colonize the lower southern portion of the United States is a ridiculous assumption, based on absolutely no scientific fact. These animals pass away every winter in Florida due to the lower temperatures. If they can't even be established in the top half of Florida, how could they possibly migrate out of the state?

CMHypno (author) from Other Side of the Sun on June 25, 2011:

Thanks for reading the hub and leaving such a great comment Azalayia. I think that we have to remember that it is not the the giant pythons fault that they are in Florida, and that the environment of the Everglades makes it very difficult to hunt these surprisingly elusive snakes.

Azalayia on June 24, 2011:

Sooo I cant help but to wonder WHY there are not hunters in the Glades rounding up these snakes and killing them. WHY are we trying to save and donate snakes to zoos and charities that should not be here in our ecosystem in the first place. IF we decided to kill EVERY python found in sight it WOULD NOT harm our Glades one bit because they should NOT be here anyway.

CMHypno (author) from Other Side of the Sun on March 16, 2011:

Hi James, the problem with the pythons in the Everglades is that they were not there before us, they are an invasive species introduced from Asia, and now rock pythons from Africa. The Florida Everglades already have an apex predator, the alligator, and the huge influx of invasive pythons is potentially highly damaging for local species. All eco-systems need apex predators, as they fulfill a valuable role, and that is why they are being reintroduced into certain areas. But it is only native predators that are being reintroduced, such as the wolves into Yellowstone.

james on March 15, 2011:

what's the problem. everyone sould be thrilled. this is what so many enviromentalists say they want. re-intoduction of large apex potentially man eating(and child eating)preditors into places they have not existed in hundreds or thousands of years. jaguars,grizly bears wolves etc. "they were here before us"

CMHypno (author) from Other Side of the Sun on November 20, 2010:

I agree with you Marianne, people should do far more research before they buy pets. Burmese pythons grow to a huge size and take a lot of expert care, so I believe that you should have to apply for a permit before you can keep them or any other exotic pet species

Marianne on November 19, 2010:

All it takes is a pair of pythons and you're set. That place is a breeding ground for them and it should be a lesson to humans why we shouldn't keep pets like this. And that we're kind of stupid, too, when it comes to common sense...

CMHypno (author) from Other Side of the Sun on October 21, 2010:

Hi spider, you would need to check with local regulations about capturing and keeping wild animals, but I would say that it is highly unlikely that you are permitted to remove pythons from a National Park or the wild without a permit. Also bear in mind that pythons need extremely careful looking after, can grow to be very large and are potentially dangerous to humans and pets

spider on October 21, 2010:

are we allowed to catch and keep one if we found it in everglades

CMHypno (author) from Other Side of the Sun on August 23, 2010:

Thanks for the great comment about invasive species in the Florida Everglades, must65gt. Invasive species are a big problem in lots of areas, and too many people are still letting their pets go or putting their pet fish into local waterways when they get fes up with them or they get to big to look after. The Everglades does seem to be facing some particularly big challenges and some pretty big snakes!

must65gt on August 23, 2010:

Great Hub, very informative. We have other issues in South Florida that are even more dangerous as well. Anacondas are permeating the Everglades and reproducing at an alarming rate. Now we have a danger to our freshwater lakes and streams as well...The Bulls eye snake head. This is an aggressive lungfish but it is also a very tasty food source so they are purposefully being released into the freshwater areas surrounding Miami by Asians. these fish reproduce rapidly and can grow up to 4 feet. They have been known attack humans

inadvertently in other countries. They are aggressive, with no know predator, and are destroying the fresh water fish here. Thanks again for the article...

CMHypno (author) from Other Side of the Sun on June 10, 2010:

Hi SilverGenes, the worry is that these pythons do not belong in the Florida Everglades, and what damage they are doing to the native flora and fauna. Thanks for the read and the comment

SilverGenes on June 10, 2010:

Fascinating article and more than a little concerning. The thought of such large snakes being common over such a large area is downright scary.

CMHypno (author) from Other Side of the Sun on March 22, 2010:

Hi Brian, glad that you enjoyed reading about the problem of invasive pythons in the Florida Everglades. Unfortunately, by allowing invasive species to move into an area we are not only harming the indigenous fauna and flora, but the invasive animals themselves as they often end up getting killed to get rid of them. I love snakes, but the large numbers of Burmese pythons (and now African rock pythons) now present in the Everglades is putting way too much pressure on the native species. The largest pythons even take on the fully-grown alligators!

Brian on March 22, 2010:

This was an excellent article and it really opened my eyes to just how widespread this problem is becoming. I had heard of Burmese pythons being released and thriving in the Everglades, but an estimated 100,000 of them? I had no idea! As someone who recently moved into the Everglades area it's disheartening to know that people really are that irresponsible. Of course, living in south Florida I can understand how they'd thrive. This area is rife with it's own beauty and although I'm a huge fan of snakes, every animal has its own indigenous place. Unfortunately south Florida is a more than appropriate place for many of the more exotic species of animals to thrive.

I guess there's more truth to the phrase "It's a jungle out there" than I could have ever imagined.

CMHypno (author) from Other Side of the Sun on February 21, 2010:

Glad you enjoyed the Hub on invasive Pythons in the Everglades and thanks for leaving a comment figment.

Karli Christine Duran from Texas on February 19, 2010:

Great Hub!

CMHypno (author) from Other Side of the Sun on February 11, 2010:

If the Burmese pythons and African pythons do start breeding there could be a hybrid 'super' snake to contend with RYPcontent! Thanks for reading the Hub and leaving a great comment!

RYPcontent from Chatham, IL on February 11, 2010:

Now I have another reason to stay out of the everglades!

CMHypno (author) from Other Side of the Sun on August 01, 2009:

Thanks for the wonderful comment Birte, especially about keeping exotic pets. If people want to keep a snake, they should ensure that it has been bred in captivity by a reputable breeder - not caught in the wild in it's native habitat.

BirteEdwards on August 01, 2009:

Not that long ago I saw a program on Nat.Geographic about these Burmese snakes, in particular on the one who age the alligator.

Thanks for this great hub, and the implications you are pointing out, the irresponsible keeping of exotic animals.

Animals belong in their habitat, and not as pets. We domesticated enough that we should leave the wild ones in place.

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