Tag Archives: releasing pets into the wild

Backyard Pythons? SLR/IRL

Skilled hunters, Burmese Pythons are one of the five largest species of snakes in the world and native to South and Southeast Asia. They are a threatened species in their native lands, but today there are breeding populations in a new environment, the Florida Everglades.  Image public domain.

I have this dream that I am enjoying walking around in my garden,  I look down, and there is a seventeen-foot python curled up under my house. Sounds ridiculous, but one day this may not be that far fetched.

This past week, the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) https://myfwc.com held their meeting at the Hutchinson Island Marriott, just over the Ernest Lyons Bridge from Sewall’s Point. One of the things they discussed was the overpopulation of Burmese Pythons that are ravaging native wildlife in Everglades National Park and other parts of South Florida.

I have been vaguely aware of this for years. My previous Sewall’s Point neighbor was a python enthusiast. Around 2012, he wrote TCPalm a letter to the editor in the python’s defense arguing that the Burmese Python did not bring itself to South Florida, people did! According to FWC pet pythons have been released since the 1960s but it was after Hurricane Andrew’s 1992 destruction that a breeding facility was destroyed, pythons escaped, the population exploded, and a breeding community arose.

I do believe “in all God’s Creatures,” but this is a nightmare-dynamic for Florida’s native wildlife. Public speakers noted Everglades National Park is “devoid of small mammals.” This is not an exaggeration, perhaps down 98%, and “small mammals” are not just what’s for dinner. Meals also include birds, eggs, bobcats, deer, alligators and who knows what else. Mr. Kipp Frohlich of FWC estimates a range from tens-of-thousands to over three-hundred-thousand snakes could be living in the Everglades. We really don’t know. One was even found in Florida Bay all curled up on a buoy. Oh yes, they can swim.

If I were a python and my friends and I  had eaten everything down south, what would I do? I’d slither north…

Opossums, armadillos, and families of raccoons visit my yard a few times a week. ~For now…

python-snake, public image

 

Please see links to learn about what is being done to controll and educate ourselves on the python:

FWC Presentation

Division: Habitat and Species Conservation
Authors: Sarah Funck, Kristen Sommers, and Melissa Miller, Ph.D. Report date: July 2019

https://myfwc.com/media/21029/10b-presentation-python.pdf

 

Smithsonian article shared by SFWMD:  Snake Landia_Smithsonian Article_07-2019

*Florida still allows breeders of Burmese Pythons in Florida, but they can only sell the animals outside of the state. All things considered, at the meeting, FWC Commissioner Gary Lester questioning the wisdom in this. I agree. Considering this is how pythons got out of control in the first place.

The Florida Channel videos of FWC meetings in Hutchinson Island; pythons: day 2:

https://thefloridachannel.org/videos/7-17-19-florida-fish-wildlife-conservation-commission-part-2/

https://thefloridachannel.org/videos/7-18-19-florida-fish-wildlife-conservation-commission/

Non-Native Species Along the Indian River Lagoon

Common orange rat snake and Knight Anole in a life or death struggle, Sewall's Point. (Photo by Nina B, 2014.)
Common red rat snake and knight anole fight to the death on the back porch, Sewall’s Point. (Photo by Nina Barsik, 2014.)

I believe that all animals are God’s creatures and I try to be kind to every single one, even snakes, lizards and ants. I drive my husband crazy, and he rolls his eyes if I scold him for killing a fly,  but I have been this way since I was a kid. All of the animals are my friends. I always wanted to be Snow White and have the birds land on my shoulder and talk to me. So far, the cardinals in my yard sometimes come close when I put out their sunflower seeds, but that’s about it.

Upon seeing this photograph yesterday, I wanted to share because if nothing else it reminded me that we are not the only ones fighting for our lives here along the Indian River Lagoon!

This photo, taken in Sewall’s Point, is of an red rat snake, a native, and a knight anole, a non-native, that according to the Florida Wildlife Commission has lived and bred in our area for around ten years. I have had  both species  in my aquarium at one point or another if they were injured to rehabilitate;  from what I was told, these two in the photograph were in a very healthy death grip, until one “won” of course….

By the way, in case this photo  freaks you out, snakes are great natural pest control of especially rodents; they will not attack a well cared for “Fido,” so please don’t kill them.

As afar as the knight anole, non-native species are not a problem unless they start to take over native  species to the point that the entire eco-system radically changes. For instance, many of you may be familiar with lion-fish which are now invading the lagoon and according to Harbor Branch Oceanographic kill/consume about 67 % of all life around them; or pythons in the everglades eating, deer, panthers, and alligators and now becoming the top predator. This is a problem… At the end of the day, it is usually humans that bring the animal into the non native area by releasing pets.

The Florida Wildlife Commission defines non-native animals as “exotic” saying:
“Exotic species are animals living outside captivity that did not historically occur in Florida. Most are introduced species, meaning they have been brought to Florida by humans. A few of Florida’s exotics arrived by natural range expansions, like cattle egrets which are native to Africa and Asia but flew across the Atlantic Ocean and arrived in Florida in the 1950s. Several common nonnative species, like coyotes, armadillos and red foxes, were not only introduced by humans but also spread into Florida by natural range expansions.”

So let’s know our environment, please be kind to all animals,  and let’s all help nature’s balance by not releasing exotic pets into the wild along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

Who won? I knew you were wondering about that…the snake!

Florida Wildlife Commission/FWC: (http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/nonnatives/exotic-information/)

FWC Knight Anole: (http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/nonnatives/reptiles/knight-anole/)

FWC Red/(Orange) Rat/AKA “corn snake” Snake:http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/imperiled/profiles/reptiles/red-rat-snake/)

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2-11-15:  Just to follow up and note how small the world is– as well as how much can happen through social media… a Harvard Professor and Curator of Herpetology, at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, at Harvard University, Johathan Losos, saw this IRL blog post above on the invasive Knight Anole and native Rat Snake fight in Sewall’s Point. He then got in touch with me, spoke to the woman at whose home this occurred, and  published his own blog post for his Herpetology community. Read his blog here! Thank you Dr Losos! (http://www.anoleannals.org/2015/02/09/knight-anole-vs-red-rat-snake-who-will-win/)