Florida's Python Patrol
February 15, 2014 6:04 PM   Subscribe

'One trainee, 70-year-old Eric Raits, has now caught three pythons while working as a tour guide at Shark Valley Tram Tours in Everglades. Once, lacking a bag into which to deposit the snake, he simply held on to the 9-foot python for the remaining half of the two-hour tour. “I was sitting in the backwards-facing seat with the snake coiled up around my arm,” he says. “Unsurprisingly, no one sat in the two rows closest to me. They were all in the back, sitting on each other’s laps.” '

One of Florida's more destructive invasive species is the Burmese python, a voracious carnivorous snake. Once kept as household pets, these snakes escaped or were released into the wild and have become a serious threat to native wildlife, especially in the Everglades. Enter the Python Patrol, a group of trained volunteers who capture the snakes after sightings are reported to the Florida Fish & Wildlife conservation hotline. Want to learn how to identify and report pythons and other invasive species? REDDy is a free online training course for anyone who wants to help report sightings of harmful non-native species.
posted by Quietgal (24 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
My Cousin found a 3 foot rattlesnake in his yard. Instead of taking a shovel to it as per protocol, he pinned it with a stick and grabbed it just behind its head. He did this because he wanted to prank a friend. Holding the snake the whole time, he drove his manual transmission truck to the other side of the mountain. This was a good two hour trip, and the snake was trying to escape the whole time.

Upon arrival at his friend's house, he went over to an empty trash can, tossed in the snake, and put a lid on it. He then knocked on the door, told his friend he heard something coming from the trashcans. Said friend went over and lived the lid of the can, and a very pissed rattlesnake attacked. The strike hit the lid, bricks were shat, and thus ends my story of someone holding a snake for a ridiculous amount of time.
posted by The Power Nap at 6:19 PM on February 15, 2014 [22 favorites]

No more rabbits in Everglades park. A reduction of 99% or more in raccoon and opossum populations....that was depressing. But that 2009 report that stated Burmese pythons could reach Washington DC is nonsense. I forget where I saw it, but I read a study a few years ago where some Burmese pythons were given a contained outdoor habitat in South Carolina to spend the winter. They all died.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:30 PM on February 15, 2014

If there are any panthers left in the Everglades, they must be awfully hungry.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:42 PM on February 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

One of the most notorious—and populous—is the Burmese python, which first made national headlines in 2005, when a 13-footer in the Everglades was found to have swallowed a 6-foot-long alligator whole, only to burst in half.

This is one of the most disturbing things I've encountered today.
posted by Ruki at 6:54 PM on February 15, 2014

I prefer the reptiles over the people.
posted by metagnathous at 6:55 PM on February 15, 2014

Burmese pythons are a serious problem in the Everglades! I don't know if trapping them one by one is going to put a dent in the population though. Last I heard, they were really thriving; the Everglades is really good habitat for them, and once they get big there's not much that can kill them. (Speaking of which, they "capture" pythons? Then what, they repatriate them to Myanmar? Let's be real here, they get euthanized.) They will also kill just about anything, including small- and medium-sized alligators.

The problem is that there aren't really any good ways to eradicate them that won't also do as much or more harm to native wildlife. You can't poison them because other things will eat the poisoned baits. You can't do biocontrol because there aren't any predators or diseases that are good candidates to introduce. (Though I would support introducing tigers to the Everglades; tigers are really short on habitat, so you could conserve two birds with one stone!) Knocking them off one by one is hopelessly inefficient, but maybe a bounty-hunting system like that which was successfully applied here in Louisiana for nutria might help. (Bonus: environmentally-sound snakeskin leather goods!) There really don't seem to be any good solutions.

Oh, and here's a National Geographic article, with picture, of the python that exploded after eating an alligator.
posted by Scientist at 7:14 PM on February 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

Actually, come to mention it, the only real predators that adult pythons have in the Everglades are adult alligators. When a hungry python and a hungry alligator cross paths, whichever one is bigger wins.
posted by Scientist at 7:16 PM on February 15, 2014

Ok, so now that picture is the most disturbing thing I've encountered today!
posted by Ruki at 7:39 PM on February 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

But that 2009 report that stated Burmese pythons could reach Washington DC is nonsense

There are enough snakes as it is in Washington.
posted by briank at 7:57 PM on February 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

> but maybe a bounty-hunting system like that which was successfully applied here in Louisiana for nutria might help.

Even with incentives, the pythons are pretty hard to find. Last year's state-sponsored hunt only bagged 68 pythons with 1500 hunters participating. I think we'll just have to bomb their cities when they evolve further because otherwise they seem pretty hopelessly entrenched there.
posted by planetesimal at 8:17 PM on February 15, 2014

the best hope of controlling pythons in florida starts with a top chef creating an expensive python dish. i'm imagining inch-thick python medallions au poivre, flash-grilled and finished with cream and pernod.
posted by bruce at 8:23 PM on February 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

the Burmese python, a voracious carnivorous snake

A noted predator of naked bipedal apes.

When I was living in Florida, Gators were always rushing up out of ponds to eat poodles, according to local lore. When the Gator was described as green with a narrow snout, the EPA rushed in. That there is an American crocodile. So, if the animal that et Fluffykins was a gator, say so, and it will be captured and removed. Otherwise, say nothing, and pay a redneck to shoot a snake. The snake didn't eat the dog, but there was a bounty on it, and we didn't have to deal with the EPA because of the crocodile.

Also, the most entertaining Sears hardware department in the entire world is on raceday in Daytona Beach, as that mall is right across the street from the track.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:38 PM on February 15, 2014

There are enough snakes as it is in Washington.

Hey! That's insulting and uncalled for.

Snakes aren't that bad.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:31 PM on February 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Rabbits run rampant through my parents' condo community in Naples. The Everglades are only a few miles away. Seems just a matter of time before pythons start ending up in retirees' swimming pools on a regular basis. Frankly, the place could use some excitement.
posted by Camofrog at 12:07 AM on February 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

a gift from the idiots who get these things as some kind of tough guy pet and find out that they keep growing
posted by thelonius at 4:42 AM on February 16, 2014

Nah. You want to eradicate them? Start a rumor that python meat is an aphrodisiac. While you're at it, start another one that says Asian carp and nutria intensify the effects.
posted by jquinby at 5:49 AM on February 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Burmese pythons are a serious problem in the Everglades!

Give it 25 years, the whole place will be ocean. No more python problem!
posted by Meatbomb at 6:54 AM on February 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

From the National Geographic link above:

An animated recreation of the python-alligator battle suggests that the python might have survived its massive meal but that a second gator came to the rescue and bit off the snake's head. The force of the tussle, the new theory says, is what caused the python to burst.

If they spent any more than $250 getting the animation right, I am going to be extremely disappointed.
posted by compartment at 9:10 AM on February 16, 2014

Wipe them out. ALL OF THEM.
posted by Atreides at 12:14 PM on February 16, 2014

There's an interesting documentary I saw recently on Netflix streaming - "The Elephant In The Room," something like - about the 'exotic' pet trade. Most of it is about a guy and some lions, and doesn't end well, but there's a bit on a reptile trade show too. Anything you can think of is brought to the US as a pet, the more dangerous, the better.

In Florida we also have problems with Nile monitors, iguanas, cane toads, and walking catfish - among about a thousand other things, it seems. The pythons are doing very well here because there's plenty of food, not enough predation, and they love the climate.

The littler ones probably keep the hawks and gators fed, so at least there's that.
posted by cmyk at 5:46 PM on February 16, 2014

U.S. House Republicans held a hearing on the Fish and Wildlife Service's job killing ban on importing pythons.


Upping the population of fire ants may be a path to controlling pythons.

posted by llc at 7:37 PM on February 16, 2014

Bring back the Titanoboa.
posted by homunculus at 12:50 AM on February 17, 2014

Re: the exotic pet trade in general, and Florida in particular.

I shit you not - I saw a guy walking down the street of South Beach one night with a ring tailed lemur. Usually on warm nights you get that Snake Guy walking around with his boa, or Mr. Parrot and his Macaw. This was a new one. A lemur. Where in the hell do you even
posted by jquinby at 6:07 AM on February 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

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