Monday, October 29, 2012

Florida's Visitor Pythons Pose Eco-Danger

Burmese pythons may carry a fascination for Floridians, but due to the state’s historically under-regulated trade laws of exotic reptiles, an overabundance of them is destroying the state’s ecosystem, according the New York Times.

In April, biologists captured the largest wild python in Florida to date― a 17 foot 7 inch female weighing in at 164 pounds. The python was implanted with four tracking chips and set free once more in the Everglades National Park in order to study her behavior. This week, after watching her movements for 38 days, scientists recaptured and euthanized her―albeit none too soon as she was carrying 87 eggs inside her.

This python is part of a larger ongoing study conducted by the United States Geological Survey, which has been tracking a sharp increase of python spreading and breeding within the state. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study found steep declines in formerly common mammals in the Everglades National Park, which are linked to the proliferation of Burmese pythons over the last 11 years. Animals whose populations have declined the most dramatically are often found in the bellies of captured pythons and include raccoons and opossums. But with that kind of muscle power, these snakes can and have devoured whole deer and alligators.

MORE: Snake Hunting Dogs Rid Everglades of Invasive Pythons
As Kenneth Krysko of the Florida Museum of Natural History told, "A 17-and-a-half-foot snake could eat anything it wants.”

USGS Director Marcia McNutt believes the problem is at a level that demands immediate remedy. In the survey, she states, "Pythons are wreaking havoc on one of America's most beautiful, treasured and naturally bountiful ecosystems. Right now, the only hope to halt further python invasion into new areas is swift, decisive and deliberate human action."

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