Florida’s Solution to its’ Python Problem? Let Tourists Kill ’em.

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida has more nonnative reptile and amphibian species than anywhere else in the world.There are more non-native lizards breeding in Florida than native ones.

The US  suffers an estimated $120 billion in damages each year from non-native species. You were all excited about the possibility of winning a couple billion? Chump change compared to what non-natives cost us.

Burmese Python (source: Florida Fish and Wildlife website)

One of those invasive species is the Burmese Python. They started showing up in the Everglades in the 1980s. It’s generally believed the problem was caused by people releasing pets into the wild, but what isn’t widely known is Hurricane Andrew destroyed a reptile breeding facility when the storm blew through south Florida, and many of the invasives we have now can be traced to that event. It’s currently estimated there are 100,000 pythons living in the wild in Florida (source: wildlifewatch.org). Burmese pythons have almost wiped out the small mammals that are native to south Florida, including wood storks and Key Largo woodrats, which are endangered species.

The python problem has gotten so bad in the Florida Everglades that it’s changing the park’s ecosystem. This isn’t speculation; it’s the findings of a study by Dr. Robert McCleery, et al, published in April 2015. Dr. McCleery’s team released 26 marsh rabbits fitted with tracking devices into the Everglades. During the winter months the rabbits reproduced and thrived. Then when the weather warmed up, the rabbits disappeared. And guess where they found them? Yep, inside the bodies of Burmese Pythons. (click here to read the published report)

Burmese python (source: University of Florida Dept of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation)

So what is Florida doing about the python problem? They’re hunting pythons. The state is currently sponsoring a Python hunt. The 2016 Python Challenge takes place from January 16 to February 14. It’s a competition to see who can catch the most Burmese pythons. In theory, it’s supposed to help get rid of the nuisance snakes. In reality, the last Python Challenge in 2013 brought 1600 hunters to the state and they caught a total of 68 snakes.

python challenge

Burmese pythons are a major problem, but they are a man-made problem that is typical of the Florida mindset of make money now, deal with the consequences later. With all the problems faced by the state, Governor Rick Scott told his staff to not use the terms “climate change” and “global warming,” and he’s spending a million dollars in PAC money donated by special interest groups to lobby the legislature to approve a billion dollars in tax cuts for businesses (source: Floridatoday.com). Really? All these problems and you want to spend less to deal with them? 

Oh, and if you think Florida learned its breeder lesson, think again. Panther Tracks Learning Center quarantines  rhesus and cynomolgus macaques shipped into the country from overseas and breeds the animals as well. These animals are sold to research labs across the US. Worldwide Primates in Miami does the same. A third breeding facility seeking to open faces stiff opposition from animal rights activists (source: Bloomberg Business, October 2015). What fun it would be if those animals were released during a natural disaster.

Bottom line is this: If you want to make an easy buck at the expense of animals, Florida is definitely the place to be. If, on the other hand, you give a damn about animal welfare, you really don’t want to live here.




19 thoughts on “Florida’s Solution to its’ Python Problem? Let Tourists Kill ’em.

  1. I cannot fathom why “man” has taken such hatred for nature

    Wild Horses

    What’s left?

    God help us…we have surely lost our way ✨

      1. Honestly, I hate the idea of killing them, but if we don’t kill them, they’re going to kill everything else, including our pets and possibly our children.

      2. Then…get on it. Or make it so fun-sounding (get to eat what you kill) that hunters will flock to the promotion. Don’t Japanese or Chinese think snake a delicacy?

  2. After your post, I’m not moving to Florida. I hate snakes and can’t even look at them in pidtures. I scrolled past the pictures.

    1. Florida’s mindset is mind-boggling. We have flooding due to climate change, but our governor refuses to admit it exists. And our eco-system is messed up, but we don’t even admit it, much less do anything that’s going to actually fix the problem.

  3. While I am not for killing animals, I am for the python hunt. Those nonnative snakes are killing and destroying the ecosystem of the Everglades which is an important ecosystem not just for Florida, but the United States. The fact that they kill all kinds of birds and even Key deer, which are protected and are important species to the health of the Everglades makes me want every single one of them out of there. I agree, some people here in Florida are not responsible pet owners, breeders, etc and thus we have a TON of nonnative species throughout the State wreaking havoc on natural habitats. It drives me INSANE.

  4. I’m glad you mentioned Hurricane Andrew, Jen. It really seemed to catch the state of Florida off-guard. Andrew is also blamed for the inadvertent release of hundreds of monkeys into the Florida wetlands. Too bad it didn’t hit Tallahassee and wipe out the state legislature.

    Burmese pythons are causing so much trouble because they are notoriously ravenous. Asian carp fish are causing similar problems in U.S. lakes. Wildlife officials are trying desperately to keep them out of the Great Lakes region. Zebra mussels are almost as bad. All of these critters are non-native species.

    1. I think it’s ridiculous that we’re not telling the truth about how these invasions of non-natives began. It’s ludicrous to let people believe that a few kids set their pet snakes free and now we have a dying wetlands. And yet, I’ve only seen the breeding facility mentioned twice, and only once in depth.

  5. My husband was an architect who helped build a new entomology lab on Cornell’s campus. There were air locks at entrances and micro screens on any places where utilities came into the building to prevent any bugs being studied to escape.

    I hope all their plans worked. Because Ithaca was filled with funny orange ladybugs from Japan that took over when they escaped from a lab. And ladybugs are relatively harmless.

    Human hubris astounds me. I’m not opposed to scientists studying things. But a little dose of humility can prevent a lot of pain later on.

    Curious. Now that the pythons are such a problem in Florida, do you have a suggested way of dealing with them?

    1. I am not a snake expert, but there are some folks with the Nature Conservancy that are sending volunteers out armed with GPS tracking. When they locate a snake they send their location to Florida Fish and Wildlife, who, in turn, send someone out to retrieve the snake. These are people trained to spot snakes. The problem with the hunters is they aren’t trained. In one article, a hunter from out of state was quoted as saying he thought he knew what he was doing because he’d watched a video on YouTube? Bottom line is if we really want to do something about the problem, we’re going to have to spend some money, and that’s something our governor and constituents are not going to do.

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