Python in the Everglades
June 18, 2021
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Pythons started to show in the Everglades about 20 years ago. No one can say for sure how it happened, but there is one theory that can reasonably explain this fact. Americans have always liked to keep some exotic pets at home. You can buy any creature you want a white tiger, mamba, venomous spider, small alligator or even a python. In 1990s, pet stores started to sell the babies of Burmese pythons; they were quite cheap, only 50 dollars for an exotic pet. Besides, the authorities legalized the right to keep exotic animals at home, thus the demand on pythons has grown.
These pythons were not venomous and aggressive towards humans. Some people find small pythons even cute, when those curled into tiny coils. However, these tiny pythons grow to enormous sizes and their appetite grows as well. These pythons could be 20 feet long and prefer live animals for dinner. When buyers realized the fail of their purchases, they decided to get rid of these monsters. They took their pet to the field and lost it there. Many areas of the USA are not suitable for snakes and they would die from starvation or climate conditions. However, the semitropical climate of Florida is perfect for pythons and there is probably no better place for python in the USA rather than the Everglades.
Burkhard Bilger published an article in The New Yorker magazine, in which he says that there were probably other ways of appearing pythons in the Everglades (Tarshis, 2010). There is no doubt that some pythons escaped or were discarded by their owners. However, the popularity could not be so numerous only due to this reason. Burkhard Bilger returned readers to the events of 1992, when Hurricane Andrew slammed into Florida. This terrifying storm was a whopper of Category 5 which took lives of 65 people. Hurricane brought serious damages to thousands of homes and businesses, and several exotic pet stores were among the wrecked buildings. Bilger stated that there were thousands of pythons in these stores, many of them died, but some could survive and carried by the wind to Florida. The population of these creatures has reached the figure of 150 000 pythons, but no one can say for sure their exact number. Their brown and green camouflage helps them to blend with the surrounding environment. However, there are no doubts that pythons bring threat to the Everglades ecosystem.
The pythons are constrictors who coil around their victim and asphyxiate it. The animal dies because of suffocation as the python cuts off the oxygen supply. In their native habitats like India and Southeast Asia, pythons are considered to be on the top of the food chain. Their daily menu consists of birds and mammals (В“Snakes killing everglades animalsВ”, 2012).
Michael Dorcas, a reptile and amphibian expert at North Carolina’s Davidson College, made some researches concerning the impact of python on the Everglades ecosystem. In his new report, Dorcas gives a suggestion that the devastation of animals in the Everglades has a direct connection with the increasing number of pythons in that area. Dorcas estimated the number of pythons in 1996 and 1997, when their population was not so numerous. Then he compared figures with the estimation of pythons between 2003 and 2011. The results were shocking and gave such figures to prove the dramatic influence of pythons on the Everglade ecosystem. His report stated that the population of raccoons decreased by 99.3 percent, the number of opossums decreased by 98.9 percent, and the population of white-tailed deer fell by 94 percent. Experts suggest that pythons are the reason of such rapid depopulation among mammals in the Everglades (В“Big snakes: Burmese pythons invade Florida’s EvergladesВ”, 2013).
However, there is a query, why such big animal as deer cannot escape from a huge python. They can easily run away from alligators, which make an ambush in the water, but still cannot notice a 20 feet snake. Experts say that birds and animals gather near water, their ordinary place of rest. Pounds and rivers are the natural places of pythonsВ’ haunt. Animals are used to attacks from alligators or other predators, but pythons are new species in this area and animals do not learn how to resist this new threat. In fact, those animals which come to the water do not expect to be attacked by a huge snake because pythons have never lived there.
The authorities make efforts to change the situation in the Everglades. The part has settled a hotline and encouraged citizens to inform about pythons. Biologists do not turn a blind eye to the situation and make studies that help to decrease the population of the pythons. First of all, it is necessary to understand what problems scientists have faced. Biologists euthanize a snake and perform a necropsy to identify what animalВ’s species pythons eat. In this way, biologists determine what kind of park resources are in danger; moreover, they estimate the general health of the snake and its reproductive capability. When a python is kept alive, biologist receive an opportunity to test the effectiveness of traps or embed a transmitter. After such procedure, a python is released back into the wild to determine the places where pythons prefer to spend the majority of time and how quickly they can move from one area to another (Marquis, 2010).
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Skip Snow, a wildlife biologist of Everglades National Park, says that the primary goal is to gather as much information as possible. Biologists want to know everything about pythons, how well they are doing, what are their average size and age, how long can they stay without food, where do they prefer to live and what kind of food to eat. Biologists do not have a detailed plan of action and thus any piece of information is useful. During the last ten years, the Park documented that about 1300 pythons were captured in the Park in different ways. Some of them were run over by a car or farmer machinery, others were eaten by alligators or died from other things. The cold winter in Florida has killed nine of ten pythons that were monitored by biologists in the wild nature (Childs, 2011).
However, even if biologists could find a way to decrease the population of pythons in the Everglades, no one can guarantee that the similar situation will not happen again. Due to this fact, there should be taken some preventive measures to exclude the repetition of such situation in the future. Thus, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission created a program called Non-Native Amnesty Day which gives an opportunity for the exotic petВ’s owners to return an unwanted creature back to the place which is better equipped to carry it (Marquis, 2010). In 2009, Senator Bill Nelson proposed to legislate an act that will forbid importing nine species of constrictors into the USA, however, this issue has not been discussed and the law is not still accepted.
Snow says that the reason of such measures does not lie in his dislike of pythons; on the contrary, he likes snakes, but the Everglades case showed that pythons should not live in such a place as Everglades Park. These pythons are not part of the Everglades ecosystem puzzle, thus they destroy it. That is why the current issue is not only to find appropriate solution for the problem but also to take certain measures to prevent a similar situation and make sure that it does not repeat again. Prevention is always better than and less costly for the authorities. Every year, the Everglades Park spends about 1 million dollars to clean up the mess caused to the ecosystem by exotic plants and animals. David Hallac, EvergladesВ’ chief of biological resources, says that they are very concerned about the issue of pythons, but it is not the only problem in the Park. The pythonsВ’ case is the reminder that these snakes are not the only problem that biologists may face in the Everglades Park (Sirucek, 2013).
Some experts believe that the ecosystem of the Everglades Park will never be the same and biologists are not able to reduce the population of pythons in this area. The EvergladesВ’ biologists answer to this statement that they do not know what to do with the current situation now, but it does not mean that they learn anything. This case has showed them that they will no longer turn a blind eye on exotic invaders and try to do all possible to protect the ecosystem of Everglades Park.
The case in the Everglades Park is an excellent example that may give a useful lesson to the biologists. Ecosystems are very fragile areas that can be easily damaged even by the appearing of some new species. During the period of twenty years, the pythons which in fact were escaped from their owners have increased in population and brought dramatic damages to the ecosystem. Biologists were not ready to cope with a problem of such size. Moreover, new species developed extremely fast and thus necessary measures were not taken. Biologists noticed that the population of python fell outside the limits when it was too late, and these exotic species have already adapted to the new environment and started to ruin the equilibrium within the EvergladesВ’ ecosystem.
Nowadays, biologists use all means necessary to stop the invasion of pythons and save other species from extinction. They caught pythons to test the specifics of their organism, how long can they live without food, what animals they prefer, and many others. The alive python may give even more information; it can be tested to discover what weather conditions are acceptable and what are lethal for him. Biologists also put a special transmitter that let them to control the python routes and indicate the preferred places in the particular area. In this way, biologists get an opportunity to find other pythons and catch them for other tests.
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One may say that such measures are too radical; however, it should be noticed that pythons are not native habitants of the Everglades area. Their presence brings enormous damages to the equilibrium of the particular ecosystem. The consequences are really dramatic because only for the last twenty years the population of some other species like raccoon or deer has decreased twice. In fact, the reason of this disaster is peopleВ’s thoughtless behavior towards nature and animals. Exotic animals always attract human and they want to have them as pets. However, they often forget one little fact that any pet has a tendency to grow. If you decide to keep a pet, you are responsible for it and you cannot throw it away when it becomes unwanted. This case showed that in the majority of situations, people are those who should be blamed, but not creatures which adapt to the new environment.