Florida has authorized a cull of Burmese pythons that have invaded the Everglades and other wetland areas, reports the Associated Press.
A spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Pat Behnke, said ten snake-hunters would be dispatched to capture and euthanize Burmese pythons two weeks after the death of a toddler in her bed by a pet python.
“I was distressed to see the death that occurred recently,” Behnke was quoted as saying. “It is important that we take action now to ensure a safe and healthy future for Florida’s native wildlife and habitats in the Everglades.”
A snake with eyes bigger than its stomach. Michael Barron of the National Park Service took this picture of a carcass of an alligator as it protrudes out from the body of a dead Burmese python in Everglades National Park, Florida. The Burmese python is an invasive species—the American alligator is native. Full story
The population of Burmese has exploded following its introduction into Florida’s ecosystems by irresponsible pet owners in the early 1990s. Tens of thousands continue to be imported into the United States for the pet trade, including 144,000 between 2000 and 2005. The snake, which can reach a length of 26 feet and weigh more than 200 pounds, has decimated local wildlife, even going after alligators.
“They reproduce 50 to 100 eggs when they lay the eggs,” Behnke said. “They have the ability to withstand different temperatures so there’s a possibility they could move north. Now is the time to get started on this and try to prevent it before it becomes even a bigger problem.”
Officials say the python hunting program will last about three months before evaluating its effectiveness. Hunters will not be allowed to shoot or trap the snakes.
The Humane Society of the United States told the AP that at least 12 people have been killed in the U.S. by pet pythons since 1980, including five children.