Huge snakes in the everglades are not the obvious thing that comes to mind when you think of the natural state park down in Southern Florida.
But the python is more thought of hanging loosely around a branch of a tree in southeast Asia where they originated, like in the Jungle Book.
Its eyes hypnotizing whatever man-cub comes its way.
But that has now changed, and with a last estimation being somewhere in the region of 30,000 up to an astonishing total of 180,000 Burmese pythons living happily in the warm waters of Florida’s famous national park, these reptiles are not only something to be seen as simply a surprise visitor, but instead an incredible threat to the ecosystem of the area.
How Did Pythons Enter The Area?
It is believed that the prospect of pythons in the Everglades has been possible since the late 1970’s when either they escaped from a local owner, or the more likely option of being freed by someone who had bought one as a pet, and become surprised by the size the python could grow to.
It is not uncommon for a breed such as this to grow to over 16 feet long, and weigh in the region of 150 pounds, and combined with a nasty temper, (and to be honest who is going to argue with a snake like this anyway,) it can quickly become less of a pet and more of a frightening house guest.
The last possibility leading to pythons in the everglades, was the destruction of the zoo up in Miami.
When Hurricane Andrew tore its destructive path through the area, the zoo was devastated, and many animals found the confining walls, and cages simply blown to pieces.
And without anything to hold them in place, they simply scampered, jumped, or in the case of our reptilian friends slithered away.
It doesn't take a genius to realise that the chance of locating, and returning a hippo to the zoo is somewhat easier than stopping a snake from having a life of freedom, but whatever occurred which led to it ending up in the Everglades, for the snake it couldn't have been better.
The place is like having their own fast food service available twenty fours a day.
And man, haven't they made the most of the plentiful supply of animals that are there to feast on.
What Animals Can A Python Eat In the Everglades?
The everglades are full of wildlife which draw tourists and scientists to the area year after year.
And it is the variation of animals that really allows the place to thrive.
From the American Alligator and Crocodile, to the Leatherback Sea Turtle.
From the Bald eagle to Osprey.
To even the Florida Panther and Black Bear.
It really has very few competitors who can boast of having as many creatures living in an area which is no bigger than 1,900 km².
Maybe in South America, or Africa, but on the Mainland of America the everglades are high on the list of natural wonders.
For a full list of the animal founds in the Everglades click through to this list .
And of of all them from the smallest to the largest have a natural position within the food chain, that keeps the natural balance of things.
So when you add to the mix a predator that the rest of the Florida mammals do not fear, as they haven't seen anything like it in the area for 16 million years so nature hasn’t taught them to be wary, the problems are clear to see.
The main animals that the the reptiles will feast on are Limpkins and white ibises , which are a particular favourite, and oppssums, bobcats and other small rodents and animals, but they will take on pretty much anything if they are hungry enough
Scientists in the area state that literally a quarter of all pythons caught in the “Glades” have a stomach full of bird remains.
You can't blame it really.
It is only doing what nature wants it to do, but with reports of a snake being caught with an alligator inside it stomach, and also a deer weighing over 70 pounds, there are little that these things are really threatened by.
I suppose the number one question on many of your minds is “Could it kill a human” , and the simple answer is “Yes”,although this would be extremely rare.
In fact the only known attack on a human in Florida was from a pet, that decided it had had enough of its owner, but your lovable pooch, cat, or any other adored pet would be easy prey.
Are The Decreasing Number Of Everglade Residents Purely Down To The The Snakes?
For many many years it was not an uncommon sight to see the poor unfortunate body of a flattened animal on the tarmac of the Florida roads.
Roadkill was such a frequent occurrence, that most drivers would simply swerve around the carcass and continue on their way, without much of a thought to the animal, that shortly beforehand had been happily making their way through the Florida countryside.
But this sad sight, is becoming less common, and for some animals such as the raccoon, which was a constant victim to the oncoming vehicles it hardly happens at all anymore.
Now you might be thinking “Yayyy, good on you clever little raccoons”
If only that was true, and the Florida wildlife had just grown cleverer and had become more adept at surviving.
But the simple truth is due to the pythons in the everglades, many of them are getting killed and eaten long before coming anywhere near the Florida Interstates.
During a recent review of the different types of animals that are killed every year on the roads, many animals did not appear on the list at all
Back in the years 1993 until 1999, sightings of the raccoon on the everglades were recorded at 266, in the following decade no more than 9 were spotted.
The same can be reported in regards to the White Tailed Deer, possum and many varieties of bird.
Whilst most shocking of all is the total absence of the Marsh rabbit and the Grey and Red Fox who have vanished altogether.
The list of diminishing wildlife quotas goes on and on .
And whilst the much larger animals such as coyote, Florida panther and bear who lived in the area, are generally not thought to be all disappearing due to python attacks, take away their natural food supplies, which could well be down to the voracious appetite of the snakes, and they will obviously go elsewhere to find dinner.
So the demise of the everglade wildlife, can’t be pointed solely as being due to the snakes in the everglades but it certainly indicates that the ecosystem is changing, and measures have to be put into place to stop further damage from occurring.
Catching And Culling The Python In The Everglades
There has to be a focus on controlling the breeding of the Florida snake population, and as a local resident said “It will take more than a cold snap to wipe out monsters like this” after catching a 17 feet snake in August 2012.
But how do they do it?
And will they ever free the area from the threat of these reptiles?
Well first of all you can start by simply catching them and removing from the area, with the help of local expert on pythons such as Edward Mercer who will humanely catch the snake and box them up before moving them out to research centers and the like.
Or residents of the Everglades who make their livelihoods out of teaching and educating visitors to the area.
Since 2000, over 1,700 of these huge reptiles have been caught which is a tiny proportion of the still breeding snakes total.
Will they ever be removed totally? Who knows?
But what we do know is until they are eradicated completely the Everglades as we know them today could well be a thing of the past.
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