The Florida Everglades are one of the country’s most diverse and important ecosystems. Now, the Burmese python is claiming turf there, and it rules the food chain with a menacing hiss.
“They have no natural predators and they can eat just about anything,” said Cheryl Millet, a biologist with the Nature Conservancy. She started a python patrol to catch the snakes.
Since 2008, the Nature Conservancy in Florida has trained over 400 responders to catch and remove pythons they encounter during regular patrols or via hotline tips.
Researchers and the National Park Service blame irresponsible exotic pet owners for the problem. They believe the pythons ended up in the Everglades when their owners decided they were too much to handle and dumped them in the swamp. Over 1900 snakes have been caught since 2000.
Serpent control is a rough gig, as Fusion’s Nicolas Ibarguen discovered during a visit with Jeff Fobb, an animal specialist with the Miami Dade Fire Department’s Venom Unit.
“Most of these animals are euthanized,” Fobb said. “How are you going to find homes for tens of thousands of animals?”
Scientists say programs like these will not eradicate the thriving python population. The program leaders hope they can at least get it under control. For now, the biggest hunt in the Everglades may be for its biggest predator.