In the spirit of today, World Snake Day, Americans might want to consider the fact that some 150,000 Burmese pythons have invaded Florida's Everglades, and are threatening the local ecosystem and other wildlife.
Native to South America and India, this slithering species was imported to the United States in the thousands for the pet trade, and eventually made its way to Southeast Florida. Since their introduction, they have multiplied and trampled on native species of mammals, birds and even reptiles in Everglades National Park, south of Miami. By preying on native wildlife and competing with other native predators, they are seriously impacting the natural order of things.
According to 2012 study, the population of raccoons, opossums and even bobcats have declined significantly in the Everglades regions where pythons have been established the longest.
Officials are doing everything they can to control python populations.
"With respect to controlling Burmese pythons, we are working diligently with our state, federal, tribal, and local partners to manage this invasive species and educate the public on the importance of not letting invasive species loose in the wild," Park Superintendent Dan Kimball said in a US Geological Survey news release.
More than 2,000 pythons - the largest of which was over 17 feet long - have been removed from the Everglades since 2002, according to The Washington Post. But that is only a fraction of how many are still left, not including the other two species of pythons - among them the big, bad African rock python - that are also established and breeding in the park.
Since controlling their numbers hasn't effectively worked so far, last year the state of Florida held an open hunt called the Python Challenge that only proved the snakes are extremely hard to find and even harder to eradicate.
So now the Conservancy of Southwest Florida is asking the public and park visitors to keep their eyes open and report any Burmese python sightings, the Austrian Tribune reported. They can send in pictures and note the location to www.ivegot1.org. Pictures are important so as not to confuse invasive hatchlings for some of Florida's native snakes such as the red rat snake or the banded water snake.
According to the Florida Invasive Species Partnership, there have been about 2,040 Burmese python reports in all of Florida since the partnership began tracking them.
While this invasive species is a threat to the local ecosystem, they do not pose a danger to park visitors - although the risk of an attack is not nonexistent.
"Our guidance to visitors with respect to Burmese pythons is the same as for our native wildlife - please maintain a safe distance and don't harass the wildlife," Kimball advised.
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