Friday, February 12, 2010

Killer snakes on the loose!

Some wildlife experts believe it's just a matter of time before Floridians will have to fight daily, pitched battles with invader species - like pythons and iguanas - over the last remaining scraps of food.

Okay; so I made up that up.

But many biologists agree that the proliferation of exotic, non-native species in Florida is a problem that's only getting worse.

The National Geographic Channel tried to put the problem in perspective this past week with its excellent documentary, "Python Wars," which airs again tomorrow.

My friend Jeff Klinkenberg, who writes about Florida for the St. Petersburg Times, wrote about Florida's iguana problem last summer.

My first encounter with an invader snake was over 20 years ago when I photographed wildlife trappers Todd Hardwick and Joe Wasilewski with a 20 ft. long reticulated python they caught under a house in Ft. Lauderdale.

Back then that capture was played on front pages around the world. It was big news. Twenty years later, captures like that are commonplace.

And if all of that isn't enough to scare you, Animal Planet will be airing another killer snake documentary with a scary title next month.

"Killer Aliens" will premiere Sunday, March 14 from 8 to 10 p.m.

The press release describes the program this way:
The Sunshine State is being overrun by lethal Burmese pythons, feral hogs, Nile monitor lizards, and Gambian rats the size of cats - all non-native species that have been imported by humans. These foreign invaders are wreaking havoc on the ecosystem and natural species are being thwarted. With no natural predators, their populations continue to spread rapidly throughout the state, spreading disease, destroying vegetation and crops, preying on native species and in the worst cases harming humans. It's a race against time to fight this ecosystem nightmare.
You've been warned. Now run for your lives!


  1. Hardwick and Big Bertha also made an appearance on Johnny Carson. I believe Carson was assigned to the tail when the snake was stretched out on the stage.

    The feds still studdying the problem all these years (and well-paid careers) later will never reach a conclusion on how to solve the problem.

    One solution would be do on federal lands what the state is doing on a limited basis: License trappers to kill the snakes. Pay them a bounty, if there's no commercial market for the meat and skin. Monitor their actions to make sure they do no harm - but set the trappers free NOW while the snakes are cold and lethargic.

  2. The real issue isn't how they are effecting humans, but instead how these large predators are interacting with the rest of the environment and fighting (literally) 'keystone' predators.


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