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WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US--STILL

or…you better find a way to fix stupid

by

William A. Gralnick


I don’t know who is more mindless. Category one is the people who bought a Burmese python as a pet, a snake that reaches 20 feet in length and can weigh over 300 pounds. Category two is the consumer who realizes the snake can kill his family and decides to dump it into the Everglades. You’re not from Florida? Keep reading, friend.




A recent article about this invasive species in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reads like the plot line of a Stephen King novel: monster with no known predators in the US of A is breeding and spreading like rabbits. It is wiping out local animal life along with pets and at some point a child or two. The promo for the book would carry a picture from a few months back showing a python that killed and ingested an 8-foot alligator. What to do, oh what to do?


As the Brits would say, “’tis a sticky wicket!” And indeed it is. However many of the mother’s clutch of 50 eggs survive past childhood then there’s nothing to stop them. Until shall we say puberty, other large snakes, hawks, and eagles pray on them but apparently not fast enough. No animal with fur or feathers is safe. The endangered Key Deer, the size of a large dog, the endangered wood stork, and even the White Tail Deer are disappearing.




A first thought would be what is the natural predator of these monsters where they come from? One is the King Cobra. I don’t think importation of them is a great solution. So what else?


One tactic being used in south Florida is the python hunt. We all know that Florida is a strange place in many ways. One way is that we have platoons of professional python hunters who are joined by a bunch of nuts who think tramping around amongst billions of mosquitoes, alligators, panthers, and bobcats looking for an almost an unseeable snake in the dead of night, and getting prizes for their killings, is fun.


Did I say unseeable? Yup. Man’s best sense is sight. The python’s best defense is amazing camouflage and the fact that they don’t move much. Eight-five percent of their lives are spent motionless. They stake out a territory near where animals wander for food and drink and hide, or climb a tree, curling up in the crook of its branches waiting to drop their hundreds of pound bodies on their stunned prey.




In an experiment, a two-football field area was walled off. It had pools of water, forest area, and open ground. A gaggle of people was let loose for two hours. The total take? One snake. Almost all the snakes were hiding under water! Hiding under the water as some have done in the water traps of your golf course.


Scientists have come up with another tactic, one which has some environmentalists up in arms. They are catching possums and fitting them with a tracking device. Snake eats possum, technology locates snake. Hunter kills snake. Much better numbers than the hunt; not so great for the possum.




And that’s about all we’ve got. For the moment then, the suggestions are staring us in the face. Make the hunting season longer. Raise the bounty on snake kills. Give the “Lone Rangers” better training. Train and license more professionals.

Behind door number two is to start captive breeding programs for small animals. We need more possums. Rabbits would work. Even wild hogs. Fit them with the tracker device and track the signal. It is an option that makes one’s skin crawl, except for the wild hogs, but soon enough the python will find that baby horses and baby cows provide wonderful meals. Now the beast is out of the ecological chain and into the food chain. Bad for us all.


Should this stimulate you to hitch up and go hunting think of this little advisory seen so often on television: “Don’t try this at home.” Pythons are unimaginatively strong. While not poisonous, they have wicked, large fangs that cause deep puncture wounds. These fill with an anti-coagulant. If it bites you, you can bleed for hours and without prompt and proper treatment you can get an infection that will kill you.


And they don’t just die. Experts warn that the only way to instantly kill a python is to smash its skull. That piece, the skull, of a 20-foot, or even 15-foot snake is quite small. And one shot won’t do it. Nor do I mean pistol shot. You have to club it to death. If you shoot it, the shot has to be a head shot, a shot taken now at a dangerous, angry moving target. Also, they are cold-blooded animals and don’t die like warm-blooded ones. You can hack a python in half and you’ll still have to worry about its parts for a few hours. ‘sort of like the cut-up brooms in the Sorcerer’s apprentice.


Finally, the state must be smart for the dumb people. Importing Burmese Pythons should be illegal with crippling fines and jail time for the evaders. So too should owning one be illegal. A buy-back program should be established for python owners like is in place in many states for gun owners. Pet shops that sell mice and rats should be made to have the buyer sign a statement stating the animals are not food for a python and stating the penalties if they are found to be.


Unless we treat this like an emergency, South Georgia and Louisiana’s bayous will be next. And if, as it appears can happen with some cold-blooded creatures like birds, this cold-blooded killer begins to adapt to climate change, coastal Georgia, South and North Carolina could have these undesirables as permanent residents.


‘best think about that one…at least from my perspective.

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