Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Demise: Burmese Legless Legacy

Some time ago I noticed that the remains of a fourteen foot alligator had been found inside a ginormous Burmese python in the Florida everglades.  The conclusion was that the Burmese python - no doubt originally a pet released by, or escaped from, its look-at-me owner - had taken over as the top non-bipedal (actually, non-pedal at all) predator in Florida.  It may thus eventually wipe out that state's most famous denizen from dinosaur times.  The Economist shed some light on the snake business earlier this year, estimating that the sale of boas and pythons amounts to $1.6 - 1.8 billion per year in the U.S., a nation with at least 2.5 million pet snakes.  (Obviously herpetophobia isn't as widespread as I thought.  My wife won't even look at a snake, and I can take 'em or leave  'em - preferably the latter - even though we used to occasionally hunt rattlesnakes as kids.)  "Pet grade" (as opposed to "collector grade") snakes, which the aforementioned behemoth probably started out as, usually cost about $50 each in the U.S.  And it's not just the Everglades that are being affected.  A Key Largo rodent on the endangered species list is apparently a favorite on the python menu.  The problem is that a proposed ban against the sale or interstate transport of Burmese pythons may just make the situation worse, ie. look-at-me pet owners may be even more likely to release them into the wild when they outgrow the family aquarium (or get bored eating freeze-dried mice).  My solution: release look-at-me former snake-owners into the Everglades - maybe they taste better than alligators.