Florida’s Burmese pythons (Python bivittatus) are a an ecological disaster playing out in real time. Some reports says they have eaten up to 90 percent of the small mammals in certain areas. Some recent captures weigh about 200 pounds. But could Florida’s Burmese pythons be just starting their move into the United States?
According to Outdoor Life the answer could be a frightening yes. The snakes have been found recently in Louisiana and Georgia and have been moving north in Florida.
Up to now the scientific community felt Florida’s Burmese pythons would be confined to regions in Florida closer to their home habitat in Asia.
But some are not so sure. The thinking has been that the snakes did not do well in cold weather. Recent experience shows that cold snaps do kill the snakes – but not all of them. That suggests survivors could be developing cold tolerance. A bigger question is can they survive the terrain changes needed to get them from Florida’s tropical climate and foliage across the plains and deserts to Oregon and Canada as some fear they will?
The idea of a spread to Oregon is based on computer models and a assumption of major warming. It is not currently widely held.
Meanwhile, the pythons are the focus of intensive capture and control efforts.
As to control efforts. Federal, state, academic and local agencies are all working to control the snakes. The problem is huge. Experts say finding and eliminating females is key. That is being done by releasing males with tracking collars. Each snake leads trackers to multiple females. Each female eliminated removes multiple clutches of 50 to 200 eggs from the equation. Hunting and eating pythons is also encouraged. Bounties are also in place and an annual challenge occurs.. The latest challenge recently concluded. One family removed 20 snakes from the wild.
Experts encourage capturing and killing pythons. Humane killing is strongly recommended. To kill humanely the python’s brains must be scrambled even if they are decapitated. Scrambling the brain involves using an icepick or similar tool. It is inserted into the brain and stirred and scraped around to kill the pest.