Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Movable Beast: Asian Pythons Thrive in Florida

New York Times:By ANDREW C. REVKIN
Invasive Snakes:Click for photo

EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, Fla. — Skip Snow, a federal biologist in Everglades National Park, would love to spend his days monitoring the dizzying array of native wildlife across this 1.5-million-acre “river of grass” west of the ever-expanding Miami metropolis.

Lately, however, he has been spending ever more time studying the remains of the park’s birds and animals, extracted from the stomachs of captured or road-killed Burmese pythons, the latest — and most spectacular — addition to Florida’s growing list of biological interlopers....

Lori Williams, the executive director of the federal invasive species council, said Florida’s growing focus on snakes and other terrestrial introduced species could raise the profile of the issue in Congress....

Well, one could set a python free in the halls of Congress...Only problem would be deciding with whom to mate, now that Tom DeLay is gone.

While Mr. Snow is hunting whatever pythons he can find and pushing for new laws and more money for preventive programs, he is also working at the grass-roots level.

In frequent slide presentations to community groups, he pulls no punches, describing how the snakes seize prey with small sharp teeth and suffocate it with muscular coils. There are several recorded deaths of pet owners in the United States strangled or suffocated by pythons.

One slide says: “Do you really want a snake that may grow more than 20 feet long or weigh 200 pounds, urinate and defecate like a horse, live more than 25 years and for whom you will have to kill mice, rats and, eventually, rabbits?”

Now I admit that I've been critical of the Congress. But this, I think, is going too far...

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