Pythons Are Getting Closer To Tampa
I know, I know…black racers are great to have around. They kill critters that we don’t want. I’ve resigned myself to that truth. But I can’t wrap my head around a snake that can wrap itself around my head and quietly stare at me as I suffocate. That’s some Stephen King crap right there.
The southern portion of our state has always been a petri dish of predators that rival the Outback in Australia. Every winter we are warned about frozen lizards falling from trees. Little old ladies fall victim to hungry alligators as they walk their toy breeds. But now, a particularly nasty citter is headed our way, and they are the real deal. Remember the story from last year, when they found a full-sized deer in the gut of a Burmese python? I do, because I wrote it. It was surreal to imagine something so large could be taken out by a snake. But back to the story.
Burmese pythons are not native to Florida. They are native to Southeast Asia, but became very popular in America due to the exotic animal trade. While they initially appeared in the southernmost tip of the Everglades National Forest, their population has exploded outward and upward. As a skilled predator, the population growth has been blamed on the python’s ability to thrive in our climate. That’s compounded by the amount of slithery offspring they can produce. As the pythons continue to breed, they spread out and take over new areas. That means with each year, they are getting closer to us. How close are they? They have already been found north of Fort Myers. The astounding rate of growth has happened over the last 20 years.
Back in 1979, a 13-foot python was run over by a car on Tamiami Trail. Since then, even larger examples have been found. To make things worse, Burmese pythons decimate other animal populations when they arrive. And most efforts to control the population have failed miserably. While it seems as if we will all be snake food, there is an upside. While the python population has experienced an amazing rate of growth in the Everglades, survival closer to human population is not so easy. The survival rate plummets when the snakes are required to live in and around our cities. On the other hand, canals ans tunnels provide effective channels for the snakes to find new places to live. Another positive aspect of the push toward us is our increased ability to find and kill pythons once they are closer to us. Because of fewer places for the snakes to hide, we can more effectively control them.
Detection is not generally accomplished merely by seeing the snakes, which is very hard to do. Pythons tend to remain motionless and rest over 85% of the time. Tests for carcasses, fecal matter and even muocous can show the presence of pythons. Burmese pythons have the thickest populations along canals and rural roads, where they can most easily sun themselves without being disturbed. However, because the pythons are so reclusive, it is extremely difficult to get an exact population number. Most authorites place their guess around “tens of thousands”.
Finally, everything you’ve heard about how a python kills its prey is true. The snake will lie in wait on the side of a road or water’s edge and attack when its victim comes upon it. Since they are constrictors, they wrap themselves around the prey and grip more tightly every time their meal exhales. The animal is eventually suffocated. The longest python to date was measured at 18.7 feet long and weighed 213 pounds. At the time it was killed, it was carrying 212 eggs. The snakes have been known to eat everything from small animals to wild hogs and alligators.
By far, the best way to control the Burmese python population is weather. Once it gets cold, the snakes cannot survive. But with warmer temperatures across the entire state, that plan seems less and less likely. Source: WFLA.com
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