SNAKES -- Assuming you've eaten your breakfast, check out the AP photo from Everglades National Park showing the capacity of a Burmese python for consuming an ENTIRE deer -- whole.
Indeed, they kill alligators, great blue herons and full-grown deer, but Florida wildlife officials say these large reptiles are unlikely to be aggressive to humans. Read on for the story from the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel.
By David Fleshler
Sun Sentinel, (MCT)
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — They kill alligators, great blue herons and full-grown deer. But are Burmese pythons likely to attack a human enjoying a pleasant hike in the Everglades?
State and federal wildlife officials say no.
Scott Hardin, exotic species coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said most Everglades pythons are too small to kill people and exist in areas where the primary hazard to people remains the alligator. Although a 15.7-foot python was discovered last week digesting a deer in western Miami-Dade County, he said these snakes are highly unlikely to be aggressive toward people.
“I’ll never say the danger is zero,” Hardin said. “If a snake that size wrapped you up you’d be in trouble. But snakes that size are extremely rare. The ones brought in are in the 4-to-8-foot range.”
Federal environmental assessments have found little evidence of human deaths from Burmese pythons in their native southern Asia.
Virtually all fatalities have resulted from pet snakes escaping and attacking their owners or their owners’ family members, according to studies by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey. But the danger does exist theoretically, and one federal report recommends keeping children in known python habitats away from grassy thickets and water.
Burmese pythons established a breeding population in the Everglades several years ago, having arrived as escaped or deliberately released pets. The vast majority live south of Interstate 75, most clustering within a few miles of Tamiami Trail, Hardin said.
Florida last year banned the purchase of Burmese pythons and seven other reptiles as pets, allowing only dealers, exhibitors and researchers to own them.
The Obama administration proposed in January, 2010 to ban the import and interstate movement of Burmese pythons, green anacondas, Northern African pythons and six other snakes as “injurious species” for their threat to native habitats.
The proposal, currently under review, faces a fight from the U.S. Association of Reptile Keepers, which has pressed its case with White House officials. Andrew Wyatt, the group’s president, said the proposal relies on an exaggerated assessment of the threat and would cost jobs. “A listing would destroy the captive bred industry in pythons without providing any pragmatic solutions to the problems limited to the southern tip of Florida,” he wrote in a comment on the proposal.
Wayne Pacelle, chief executive officer of the Humane Society of the United States, blamed the delay on the administration’s excessive concern for the reptile industry.
“I’m disgusted that the Obama administration is delaying as the crisis continues to spread,” he said. “There are thousands of large constricting snakes being imported into the United States. It’s contributing to animal cruelty, it’s threatening our fragile southern ecosystems and it does not make common sense to allow it to continue.”
Ken Warren, spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the administration was taking the time to make the right decision.
“If we’re going to be responsible we have to take our time and make sure we get it right,” he said.