What happens when “exotic pets” are dumped in a place not so different from their natural habitat? They take over and kill everything, that’s what. In Florida’s remaining wild swamps, Burmese pythons are eating all the native wildlife—they’re even eating full-grown alligators! This is one of those Ecological Nightmare Scenarios that requires a very clever response.
The Nature Conservancy attacked the problem from every angle: They got federal and state laws banning the sale of these snakes, which can grow to 18 feet long and weigh 100 pounds. They made a team of snake-wrangling superheroes from the state’s scattered conservation workers and swamp-tour leaders. Even FedEx drivers have been taught to recognize the beasts, which can often be seen sunning themselves on suburban streets.
Maybe most importantly, the Nature Conservancy is doing some very smart marketing to teach Florida residents how to recognize the hungry pythons and who to call to collect the unwelcome snakes. With more than 100,000 Burmese pythons thought to be hunting and breeding in the Florida swamps, nothing less than coordinated statewide action is going to stop the snake invasion.
Everybody gets to be a PythonBuster by calling the toll-free hotline, 1-888-IVE-GOT-1 … so if you see something, say something (to the operators standing by). Get in touch with the Florida chapter to find out how to ID Burmese pythons or volunteer anywhere in the state.
Photo via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.