The Furor Over the Giants

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    Giant constrictor snakes have taken the media by storm
    You’ve probably read about how Burmese pythons are taking over and decimating the Everglades, and about how dangerous giant constrictors are. You may have even read about how they’re going to colonize the entire lower half of the US.


    Over 60% of the estimated population dies each time there is a severe cold snap in Florida.

    There is no evidence that Burmese pythons are ‘decimating’ wildlife in the Everglades. In fact, it is far too soon to make any predictions about what impact they will have on that ecosystem. You may have heard that they have no natural predators–that is true, but very deceptive! They have no NATURAL predators because they are not NATIVE. There are MANY native species that prey on Burmese pythons at all stages of their life cycle. Hatchling Burmese are taken readily by any predator big enough to kill them, and they aren’t hard to kill. Their only defense is a venom-free bite that isn’t very painful, and camouflage. Adult Burmese are being eaten by alligators. The sensationalized photo of a dead alligator protruding from the split stomach of a Burmese often wasn’t accompanied by the whole story. The snake didn’t take prey that was too large for it…what actually happened is that after it swallowed the alligator, another alligator bit off its head…
    Sounds like the gators are still winning!

    These large constrictor snakes come from tropical areas, and the subtropical environment of the Everglades is marginal habitat for them. They can survive there, but thriving is a different story. The cold snap experienced in Southern Florida in the winter of 2010 killed huge numbers of non-native species outright. Among the dead were most of the Burmese pythons. We can say ‘most’, because every single snake that was implanted with a radio tracker died.

    The USGS report written by Rodda and Reed has been widely condemned as pure bad science. It was written to support an agenda–to aid a Florida politician in legislating a ban on these animals. This ban will result in funds pouring in to fight the perceived problem. It’s all about the cash flow.
    The report shows that most of the lower US is suitable habitat for Burmese pythons and several other large constrictors. The map used is based on projections of climate affected by global warming! This is incorrect for MANY reasons…the first of which is the fact that climate change will cause COLDER winters, and these animals simply cannot tolerate the cold. They do not have the instincts to seek shelter to avoid it! What’s more, most of the habitat in the lower US is simply not the right type of ecosystem for large constrictors to survive. They even show tropical rainforest animals living in desert areas! It is, quite frankly, ridiculous.

    The danger of large constrictor snakes has also been highly exaggerated. While it is true that they CAN be dangerous, when safe handling practices are used, keeping a giant snake is less hazardous than keeping a horse. The recent tragedy of a 2 year old being killed by a pet Burmese in Florida leaves many questions unanswered. The circumstances were highly suspicious, and most people familiar with giant snakes doubt that the snake was responsible for the girl’s death. There is strong reason to believe that the snake was framed in an attempt to cover up a murder. The most significant reason to believe this is that the snake was simply too small to have seen anything bigger than a small rabbit as potential food. It was also emaciated and probably weak. This snake was barely over the limit for safe handling by a single person alone. The fact that the police were not permitted inside until they got a warrant…well, that speaks for itself.

    Keeping ANY large animal is not for everyone. Only knowledgeable and experienced people should keep giant snakes. There is no reason, however, why knowledgeable and experienced people should be BARRED from keeping giant snakes. No giant snake has ever killed a human outside of its own household, and the number of people killed by giants in the last decade is less than the number of people killed by dogs last YEAR. Less than the number killed by horses, or cattle. There were more people who died last year from septic cat bites than were killed by giant pythons. They very simply are NOT as dangerous as they have been made out to be. When safe handling practices are followed, they can make spectacular pets. The potential for rare accidents is not a sufficient reason to take away peoples’ freedom to keep pets.

    Now, HSUS, PETA, and Ken Salazar of Florida have succeeded in using an underhanded loophole in the law to add 4 species of constricting snake the Injurious Species list in the Lacey Act. They used this method after 3 bills attempting the same thing, failed.

    This occurred just a few days ago. It is now no longer legal to import, or transport the following species across State lines:
    Burmese Python
    North African Rock Python
    South African Rock Python
    Yellow Anaconda.

    The other species still being considered, which have not yet been added, include the following:
    Reticulated Python
    Green Anaconda
    Dark-Spotted Anaconda
    Bolivian Anaconda
    Boa Constrictor (all subspecies)

    Please contact the FWS and let them know how you feel about this. Use paper letters, and phone calls.

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