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Burmese Pythons Invade Florida Everglades

By M Dee Dubroff     May 29, 2009 in Environment
The fragile wetlands known as the Everglades have now become home to more than 150,000 alien Burmese pythons dumped there by uncaring pet owners. What threats do they pose for other indigenous wildlife? Read on and…shiver a little.
According to wildlife biologists, these troublesome snakes are wreaking havoc with endangered species like the wood stork and Key Largo wood rat. In the words of Skip Snow, an Everglades National Park biologist, as he showed a 15-foot python to Ken Salazar, US Interior Secretary who was on a fact-finding mission to the Everglades sparked by the Obama administration.
“They eat things that we care about. These snakes could eat a small deer or a bobcat without too much trouble. They're fine when they're small, but they can live 25 to 30 years. When they get bigger you have to feed them small animals like rabbits, and cleaning up after them, it's like cleaning up after a horse. People don't want big snakes.”
Bill Nelson, a Democrat, who accompanied Salazar on the airboat tour of the Everglades said the Obama administration had committed $200 million, including $100 million of stimulus money, so far this year to Everglades restoration, a 35-year project valued at $8 billion when it began nearly a decade ago.
The growing Burmese python population has been a problem for at least that long but today it is truly out of hand. One of the largest species in the world and indigenous to Southeast Asia, the Burmese python found the Everglades to be the perfect breeding ground after pet owners dumped them there with no concern for how this action would affect existing wildlife populations.
Pythons are not the only invaders threatening the equilibrium of the Everglades. New fish and rodent species have also become pests, and two thriving colonies of the Nile monitor lizard, an African native that can grow to 7 feet in length, have established themselves on opposite sides of the state. One solution may be to restore the natural water flow and wildlife populations to the shallow, slow-moving river that dominates the interior of the southern part of the state.
Is it already too late to restore the Everglades?
Only time will tell.
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