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New killer snake invades Florida

A new invasive python in Florida may be worse than the species already causing ecological havoc across the Everglades, reports the Miami Herald.

A recent string of captures of African rock pythons has authorities worried that the species, smaller but much more aggressive than the already-established Burmese python, is getting a foothold in the state.

“They are just mean, vicious snakes,” Kenneth Krysko, senior herpetologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, the Miami Herald. “You couldn’t get a worse python to become established. A Burmese python is just a docile snake. These things will lunge at you.”

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

Robert Reed, a biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Colorado, told the newspaper that there is evidence to suggest that a population of African rock python has settled near the corner of Tamiami Trail and Krome Avenue in West Miami-Dade, South Florida.

“What you see probably in no way represents what is out there. When you have three in a year, that rings warning bells,” Reed said, referring to three recent captures.

Like the Burmese python, the occurrence of African rock python in Florida is likely the result of releases by irresponsible pet owners. Both species pose a threat to native wildlife. The Burmese python, which can reach a length of 26 feet and weigh more than 200 pounds, has been known to go after small mammals, deer, and alligators. Pet Burmese pythons have even killed pets and people. According to the Humane Society of the United States, at least 12 people have been killed in the U.S. by pet pythons since 1980, including five children.

To deal with the menace, two months ago authorities in Florida announced a python hunting program. The program is scheduled to end next month.

CURTIS MORGAN. New, nastier python enters Everglades fray. Miami Herald 20-Sept-2009

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