A Letter to Florida: Please Stop Releasing Snakes Into The Everglades

Dear Florida,
Between 1996 and 2006 an estimated 99,000 Burmese pythons were imported into the US, of these an estimated 30,000 now live in the Everglades. Worse yet, they, along with released Boas, are now breeding.

Additionally, there are an unknown number of reticulate pythons, yellow anacondas, and green anacondas roaming around Florida. When you consider that a number of these species grow large enough to eat white-tailed deer and alligators, you can understand, I hope, why this is a problem. These snakes can also survive anywhere an alligator can survive, so unless something is done you can expect to see them showing up in places like Georgia and Louisiana within the next couple of years (one telemetered python traveled 48 miles over the span of a couple of months).
This kind of thing has the potential to have catastrophic effects on the environment, the already endangered Key Largo woodrat are favored prey items, and smaller pythons are competing with the endangered indigo snake for prey.
Large snakes do not make good pets, even experienced professionals do not like to handle them alone, and several people have been killed by their snakes. So do us all a favor and stop buying them, and if you have one do not release it into the wild.
Update 1: Science Daily also has info on the subject
More info:
USGS Maps Show Potential Non-Native Python Habitat Along Three U.S. Coasts
Burmese Python Consumes Bobcat
Update 2: Then, of course, there is this:

“We’re seeing everything from boa constrictors and pythons to iguanas and a few alligators.”
When they cross paths with a large reptile, firefighters “do the best we can to work around it and move on, and wait until it clears the area before we go in,” Dueitt said.

Here is a picture to illustrate the problem (Source: NPS Photo)

22 Responses

  1. Please, Please, Please, confine your statements to areas and items of which you may have some knowledge. It is obvious that snakes and politics are not in that group.

  2. Please, Please, Please, confine your statements to areas and items of which you may have some knowledge. It is obvious that snakes and politics are not in that group.

  3. Uh, Ron? Could you maybe point to an example of how he’s demonstrating his lack of knowledge?

  4. Yes, please do demonstrate where I am wrong! Everything I said in the above post was taken from the study I linked to. With the sole exception of large snakes not making good pets. That comes from my own personnel experience, as well as the experience of a number of herpetologists, both professional and amateur, that I am acquainted with. I’m not sure what politics has to do with the above post…

  5. If there are 30,000 Burmese pythons already living in the Everglades it’s all over. No amount of pleading to stop dumping in the ‘Glades will help. 30K is a plenty big breeding population.

  6. Is that Ron Cauble of “The Bone Room”?

  7. Gene – that is where the link takes you…
    RBH – True…

  8. On the positive side the pythons recovered near human habitations have been said to have been eating mostly domestic animals like cats, small dogs (both considered invasive species and a danger to wildlife) and relatively prolific boundary animals like the overly common gray squirrels.
    I remember reading about one particularly huge specimen that might have been 20′ long. The accompanying photograph showed something like four or five people attempting to lift it after it was recovered from under a house and some was still dragging. People became aware of its presence when all the stray cats and dogs disappeared.
    I agree that people need to be selective and very controlling of their selection of pets. I wish they were more so with the much more common and very destructive cats and dogs. But, just maybe, it is fire fighting fire.
    Of course the historic precedent isn’t encouraging. People generally fail to control their animals and using one to control another usually ends up with an even worse situation.
    There is the famous Hawaiian story, almost certainly apocryphal, about people importing snails and then rats to control the snails and then snakes to control the rats and then mongoose to control the snakes. That may not be true. But it is true, I used to live there, that Hawaii is now home to snails, and rats. Both of which are destructive to the ecosystem and a nuisance.

  9. It isn’t good to let one’s pets stray, but killing them off with pythons seems excessively violent. The only “wildlife” my cats affect are beetles and mosquitoes; The beetles are those that venture into the house and thus become Cat Toys, and the mosquitoes have entry assisted by the little claw-holes in the window screens. Please don’t paint all pets as dangers to wildlife. The problem is pet owners, not pets.

  10. Everglades National Park (this information may already be outdated) employs two trappers, complete with dogs trained to sniff out the snakes. The cost to the US taxpayers is well in excess of $100,000 per year (including (but not limited to) wages, benefits, fuel, vehicles, food and care for the dogs). I just emailed a photo of an NPS LEO with one of the captured snakes.

  11. The link to the USGS has a very interesting map. PZ Myers linked to this subject oh so many months ago and that’s when I first saw it.
    The map in question describes the Sonoran and Mojave Desert as suitable climate for these snakes. Umm… there’s a slight problem. Yes, the temperature range is close (a bit too warm some days, a bit too cool some days but the mean is acceptable.) However, the precipitation is absolutely way out of bounds. These snakes need that subtropical climate of Florida. While Burma has a winter monsoon drought (15-30 cm Sept-Mar) that’s more than the Mojave receives all year! I’m surprised the USGS placed something so wrong in such a public space.

  12. Onkel Bob – Yeah, I would be surprised to find Burmese pythons taking up residence in the Mojave…

  13. Now that the show is over, i retired to Florida. My pet dragon, Norbert, has grown too big for me wooden shack. An besides, he’s got breath of fire, if ya know what i mean. So nowadays i mostly let him roam the swamp. He still comes back for a shot a firewhisky or two. An no harm to no one.

  14. The map is supposed to be potentially pretty ropey – apparently they used P. molurus as a whole instead of just the subspecies being released – as a result the map includes areas within the climate fit for some of the pakistani and chinese forms as opposed to just the indonesian snakes imported and bred in the us (or something along those lines). I think the idea of the map is an absolute worst case scenario but it hasn’t really been presented like that. Check out fieldherpforum.com for some in depth discussion (and some insane photos of floridian feral pythons).

  15. Far too many people underestimate the strength of a large snake. “Oh, cool, an anaconda, I’m a badass.” Then they panic when they realize that they are physically unable to control it by themselves, and let it go.
    Start small, people. Buy a ball python, or blood python, or red-tailed boa. Something that one person can handle.

  16. If there is a large established breeding population, turning a few more loose won’t matter much in a biological sense. From a political sense, hoever, it is easier to talk about no release of any snake. The real release problem is in reenforcing small populations or introducing new species. There are a large number of snakes in the world which don’t need to find a home in the USA. So far as possible range barriers go, pet snakes have their methods for traversing difficult areas.

  17. Not to worry. Soon enough, there won’t even be an Everglades for the snakes to hide in, and good luck keeping ’em out of sight in a 10,000-square-mile parking lot paved with phosphate residue.

  18. Not to worry. Soon enough, there won’t even be an Everglades for the snakes to hide in, and good luck keeping ’em out of sight in a 10,000-square-mile parking lot paved with phosphate residue.

  19. @Chris–A red-tailed boa a one-person snake? Mine wasn’t. IMO nothing that’s ten feet long can be safely handled by one person.
    I wouldn’t buy one anyway, but rescue one. Most owners get tired of snakes pretty quick and discover they’re not easily rehomed. I also don’t want to support the exotic pet trade.
    In fact, nowadays I wouldn’t even rescue one. When I had herps, I took proper care of them and they were healthy. This seemed to make everyone who learned I had snakes (I didn’t take them out in public) decide that owning a boa constrictor was not only cool but easy, and that they could do it too.

  20. I didn’t read the link yet, but the number of exotic wild animals imported for ‘pets’ is simply astounding. That trade is obviously pointless (as well as stupid) once feral populations are established; but I wouldn’t be surprised if economics continued to favour it. More expensive to import a python from Asia, or breed one in captivity? The captive bred, of course. What about an import from Florida, if you live in CA or NY? Again, wild-caught will almost certainly be cheaper if not effectively prohibited.

  21. ummm please can you tell me the number of people killed by these snake????

  22. My name is David, and I run a snake removal company in central Florida. I’ve commonly dealt with exotic species here in Florida, as documented on my snake blog, including several Burmese Pythons and Red-Tailed Boas. They are not as common here in Central FL as they are down in the everglades, but they do certainly exist here. I really wish people would not release their pets into the wild.

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