It's An Alien Invasive Hostile Takeover! (part three)
Updated: Feb 16
Snakes and the Law at the Not Okay Corral
Having big constrictors in the Everglades is a very serious matter, and they do need to be removed. However, the lengths and ideas have come up with left me shaking my head. In 2013, the first Python Challenge took place. It was open to anyone and people came flocking from a lot of states. There were people who couldn’t hold a baby cornsnake, much less a large python. There were people that couldn’t identify a Burmese python, but as long as they paid and registered, they could go into the Everglades (except Everglades National Park, which is federal land and illegal) and shoot away. The thought that there was a bunch of armed people who not only didn’t know what to do, but didn’t prepare for being in the Everglades - the land of dehydration, alligators, and the world’s largest mosquitoes was not very reassuring. It was a miracle that no one was shot, as there was also some drinking going on at the campsite. With all the hype, there were relatively few pythons actually killed, making FWC look like incompetent fools. It has gone on every year since then, but it isn’t given the PR the first was given. There was Pete the python sniffing beagle...who really didn’t sniff in a timely manner to remove significant numbers, and there was always the chance that as the dog was looking back to signal, the python found dinner. They telemetered snakes, calling them “Judas snakes”) at first it was females, who emit a pheromone that attracts male pythons during the mating season. Then they switched to males because they were looking for some love after battling it out with all the other males. All of this didn’t make a dent. So there’s the latest idea, which has the potential to be more successful. The state is hiring people to be python hunters. This time they do teach them what to do, how to be safe, and are willing to pay $8.10/hr for up to 10 hours a day. There are bonuses for catching snakes of a certain length. They also get to take the meat and skin - that are full of mercury from the pollution there. Everglades National Park is finally allowing limited numbers into the park to kill Burmese pythons, but they have been severely limited in what they could do until last year. So if you’re in Florida, and really need a job, you too can take a bath in 100% DEET, jump into waders and trudge around the swamps and marshlands, looking for large constrictors to kill and alligators to not step on, all for $8.10/hr.
“I wasn’t cold-blooded until you put me in this stupid study” As seen on the headstone of Clyde Glyde, who didn’t survive.
In the winter of 2009-2010, at least three studies were done to see how Burmese pythons tolerated the cold. All three concluded that Burmese pythons could not survive a cold snap for prolonged periods of time. That indeed, as a tropical snake, would bask or soak in water instead of going someplace warm. The first study, Avery et al., in Gainesville, had nine snakes in outdoor pens with hides that not only were insulated but had heating pads. Out of the nine snakes, three just died for no apparent reason, two were found
euthanized. That left two snakes that were fine at the time, but probably would’ve died had the researchers not decided to bring them indoors. During the study, the snake exhibited “behavior contrary to survival.” The next study was Dorcas et al., in South Carolina, in the snakes’ temperate range, according to the Rodda et al. study. The snakes had four underground enclosures and plenty of places to hide. Out of his ten snakes, ten died. But, he surmised that because some took longer to die, that they still could survive a temperate environment. In reality, his snakes started showing different behavior when it dropped below 60 degrees. In a region where there are far longer peaks of cold, they wouldn’t stand a chance. Dorcas reasoned that they could move north if they could find places to hide because they hibernate in the wild. While I’ve heard of Indian pythons hibernating, I have heard that Burmese pythons brumate less, and with the total confusion of both snakes seen as one, I have my doubts as to which species they are referring too. All ten snakes died of prolonged hypothermia. This study seemed more biased than others. And there are some doozies as far as quotes go: “...exhibited inappropriate thermoregulatory behaviors that likely resulted in their death.” They’re tropical snakes in a sub-tropical environment. They don’t have the instinct to come in out of the cold. The author also appears to be describing the behaviors of a child. The snake was “bad” for displaying inappropriate behaviors? The snakes were displaying appropriate behaviors during inappropriate weather conditions that they would never experience in their home range. Dorcas et al. also seemed to want to study Burmese pythons in their home range. I don’t know why they would want to do that to prove cold intolerance. The population that needs study is in Florida, not Southeast Asia. The third study, Mazzotti, et al... was more interesting in that it actually involved snakes in the Everglades. In the days after the cold snap, there were accounts everywhere about Burmese python mortality. Of those studied were the park’s “Judas snakes.” Females that were telemetered for GPS and other data such as core body temperature. They get their names because, during mating season, males would swarm around her and be caught. All ten were closely monitored, and nine died. The one that lived was found in a hardwood hammock and brought back inside to stay warm. They also kept track of 104 non-telemetered snakes. Nothing was said about how they were able to track them, however. Unlike the telemetered snakes, 60% lived and 40% died. The explanation was that snakes at higher elevations are more likely to survive and there was the possibility that if they found higher ground further north, they could survive. Despite two studies saying that they could survive up north with specific conditions and survive, but all agreed that they could not handle the cold. Especially, with only three surviving of the 29 snakes, and survived because they were brought indoors.
The Reptile Industry’s Heroes
In 2008, a grassroots non-profit firm was founded by some of the biggest names in breeders, dealers, biologists, and herpetologists. They named it the United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK). I seriously doubt that there would be much of an industry without them. At reptile shows, I would split my time between my reptile group and at the table for USARK, so the then president, Andrew Wyatt, could schmooze the crowd. It was and still is wildly popular. They gave a voice for the reptile industry and taught us to be a voice ourselves. They rubbed shoulders with some of the top leaders of Congress as they sued agencies that changed the laws affecting the entire industry. Everyone that owns a reptile, breeds reptiles or sells reptiles owes USARK a huge amount of gratitude. (http://usark.org)
Hello, United States Fish and Wildlife; the Lacey Act
You might remember that I mentioned South Florida Water Management District petitioned USFWS to put the Burmese python on the Injurious List under the Lacey Act. If put in effect, the Director of the Interior is authorized to prohibit animals, eggs, offspring, etc from being imported into the United States (which I’m actually in favor of) AND prohibit the species from crossing state lines. Breeders and sellers could still export them out of the country, but only if that person was in a state that had an approved airport for shipping animals. Also, the flights had to be direct flights out of the country. There could be no stopovers. If someone else in another state wanted a listed species, it could not be shipped in any form because it was crossing state lines. Even if it was legal to own in both states. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were lost by family-owned breeders who could not transport over state lines. It wasn’t just breeders and business owners affected. It was owners too. Imagine getting a dream job that will financially secure your future and pay for your children's college tuition, but there’s a catch - it’s in another state. You have a Burmese python that you can’t bring with you...but he’s also a beloved pet. As a law-abiding citizen, what to do? If you're really lucky, you can find someone to take him If you’re not able to find a home, should you break the law and bring him with or release him? Or do you explain to your children that an animal that they love and explain to them that "Fluffy" needs to the snake doctor and be put to sleep forever because he couldn't come with? That's the only legal option there is. To get on this prestigious list, one would have to meet the following criteria: That placing them on the list would "prevent harm to human beings; to the interests of horticulture; to the interests of forestry; and to wildlife and the wildlife resources of the United States." The snakes to be listed are Burmese pythons, Indian python, North African python, South African python, reticulated python, green anaconda, yellow anaconda, Beni anaconda, and finally the DeSchaunsee's anaconda. And the last two get the honor of being listed without ever having been imported to the United States! had never heard of these species until they were named! I realize that I can't and don't know of all the snakes out there, but that's half of the anaconda family, and I like reading about the big pythons.
The boa constrictor was taken off the list, probably because it is one of the most popular snakes in the industry. When visiting a reptile show, it seems as if there are only four animals: Bearded dragons, ball pythons, corn snakes and boa constrictors.
But here we must end for now...but I won't leave empty-handed. Here are some links that are relevant to this blog's topic.
MUST READ!! This article explains a lot. Thank you John Marshall!
This is what we spend our taxpayer dollars on:
Did it pass or not? Tune in next month!!