Python Destruction of Everglades May Be Overhyped

Categories: Environment
Burmese Python Small.jpg
At the end of January, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study suggesting that Burmese pythons were decimating mammal populations in the Everglades. The numbers were shocking: a 99 percent decline in raccoon sightings, a 98 percent drop in opossum sightings, and so on. 

Reuters reported on Friday, however, that some scientists think that these statistics are severely flawed and that the study "should have never made it to the light of day," let alone into the pages of one of the world's most prestigious scientific journals. 

The study was designed to compare reported sightings of mammals -- dead and alive --  from 1993 to 1999 with similar sightings between 2003 and 2011, after the pythons had arrived. Unsurprisingly, there were fewer sightings in the later period.

Among the study's shortcomings, according to the critics, is that the researchers failed to consider other factors that could have driven down mammal sightings, including a "decade-long drought, cyclical population fluctuations, increased development and pollution."

Perhaps the most important critique is that much of the Everglades simply can't be accessed by researchers. 

Shaw Heflin, a Florida-based snake expert featured on National Geographic's Python Hunters, told Reuters that he "doesn't see anything thus far that these pythons are causing serious harm."

The article also noted that it's unclear how many of these invasive snakes are living in the 1.5-million-acre area. A spokeswoman for the Everglades National Park said there could be anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands. 

Even if the snakes haven't wiped out mammal populations, the fact that they're not afraid to wrangle with alligators doesn't bode well for the future of the food chain. 


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7 comments
Simon Heavlin
Simon Heavlin

Burmese Pythons, vicious? I don't care how long you have worked with "animals" or "other reptiles". You have not worked for any amount of time with, any amount of Burmese Pythons, otherwise you would know how simply wrong your statement was. You may have worked once with one abnormally hard to handle Burmese Python, but I assure you , that was the exception to the rule. I'm gonna fly the BS flag on this one. Go get some real hands on time with real Burms before you you make you're next uninformed comment. Stop watching Animal Planet and regurgitating what the hype.

bruce anderson
bruce anderson

The number one decimator of wildlife? There needs to be time to study this poser? Furthermore, alligators vs, pythons now that would certainly be 'awesome' as opposed to Romney vs. Santorum vs. Gingrich, which might be labeled in 2055 as 'fun and little-known facts about the 2012 election, when 'No Child Left Behind' was applied to Republican Party candidates.'

Pete Pepper
Pete Pepper

It is still not a good thing to have this introduced species roaming wild in an environment that it can take over thanks to a lack of natural predators.  Any introduced species can easily take over and destroy the native food chain.  I want to know why all of a sudden these people are saying its no problem when it really is a massive problem.Burmese pythons are very vicious and incredibly large.  When peoples dogs and cats start disappearing, they will change their tune yet again.

FQS9000
FQS9000

The food chain will always be fine, but there will be fewer alligators on top of it.

Consider the similar case of lawyers.  This population keeps increasing and nothing seems capable of holding them in check.  They prey upon the innocent and have nasty habits.

If we want to eliminate either the pythons or shysters, a cash bounty and an open season would do the trick in no time.  I am in favor of an open season on shysters, but I have sympathy for pythons.

TeresaM
TeresaM

Have you ever handled a live Burmese python? They are a DOCILE species of snake. If you had even encountered one you would know that. Why do people constantly feel as though they need to make harsh comments on something they obviously know nothing about? Maybe you should do some research instead of believing every sensationalized story you read on the news.  Apparently, according to our government, banning these animals from the ENTIRE country will save Florida from it's "impending doom" brought on by "giant man-eating" snakes. However, it's a widely known fact that Florida is the only state in the USA that can support these creatures. Tell me WHY,  I should be made into a FELON by moving one of these snakes from my home of Washington State where even during the summer most years this animal would have difficulties surviving, to Oregon or any other state for that matter. I have a Boa Constrictor living in my house at this moment. He has topped out at the largest he will get at around 6 ft long. The biggest thing he can eat is a large rat.  Last time I checked, there aren't many dogs that small or cats for that matter.  He is securely contained in a proper enclosure that locks. Why is this animal a danger to Florida when I am living in WA state? It sure isn't a danger to me or my family. It's not the animal that creates a danger to humans or other animals. It's stupid owners who don't house these animals correctly that cause trouble, just like in the case of any other improperly cared for animal, whether it be cats, dogs, horses, or exotic pets.

Pete Pepper
Pete Pepper

 Actually I have handled MANY Burmese Pythons.  They are one of the more vicious of the pythons, second only to the Rock Pythons.  I have worked with animals for decades, including reptiles so yes, I DO know what I am talking about.  If they are docile, then they are sick or very cold.And the problem is very simple.  People breed or sell them so they CAN get to Florida and other tropical states where they become a menace.  And a Burmese is a very different animal than a boa.  For one thing they get MUCH larger and eat larger prey.  They also attack humans.  Not that long ago there was a report of one killing a baby when it got loose from a "secure" cage.These things are a menace and should not be kept as pets, period.

Kyle Miller
Kyle Miller

Second most viscous?  What have you been doing to the Burms you were around to make them so defensive?  Where did you work?  I can name numerous pythonidae that are way more prone to defensive strikes/bites than burms.  I would venture the only python less likely to bite is regius.  You do realize that Florida already has laws of its own regulating the sale and trade in large constrictors right?  Why not let Florida handle its own problems like it already is doing.  Furthermore you should do a little more digging into that "report" you mention.  The snake was kept in a large fish tank with nothing more than a towel over the top, what do you think is going to happen?  The parents are now in prison for criminal child neglect and manslaughter.  Just like with Bully breeds (dogs) its time to blame the owners, not the breeds.  The owner had prior felony convictions and the snake had escaped several times prior.  I'm sure it was just looking for a warm spot when it found the child and the child did something to startle the snake sending it into a defensive mode like every other animal would in a similar situation.

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