Most of us have heard about how the Florida Everglades are being overrun by non-native species, such as the Nile Monitor Lizard and the Burmese python. In fact, if you watch animal Planet you will find numerous shows dedicated to this problem. These shows talk about how these invasive species are taking over the Everglades and are slowly but surely displacing native species because they have no known natural predators in the Everglades.
For those of you that do not watch Animal Planet let me just give you a little background here. Florida offers a very unique climate compared to other states in the US, its climate is so unique that it allows several non-native species to not only survive in the wild, but thrive in the wild. So, if these species are not native to Florida how are they getting there one might ask. The answer to this is actually quite simple. It’s the illegal exotic pet trade that is alive and well in Florida that is the leading cause of this problem.
Burmese pythons are in high demand as pets; everybody wants them it seems, so the illegal pet trade ships them in. The problem is these amazing creatures grow rather quickly. People suddenly find themselves with a huge snake on their hands that they have no place to keep, so they simply turn it loose in the wild. Other people simply grow tired of the snakes; they often lose interest, so again they turn them loose in the Everglades. People turning these guys loose is not the only problem, these huge snakes are also amazing escape artists and often get loose on their own. No matter how they got there, their presence in the Everglades is a growing problem.
Florida wildlife officials have been trying unsuccessfully for years to eradicate the Burmese pythons. It has been proving itself to be a losing battle. For every snake they kill dozens more seem to pop up. Unable to tackle this daunting task on their own the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission turned to the public for help. In 2013 they created the first ever public month long python hunt. During the first hunt only 68 pythons were caught compared to the tens of thousands that are possibly living and breeding in the Florida Everglades. And each year wildlife officials catch on average 200 pythons.
For 2016, Florida is going to bring back the month long python hunt, which registration beings in October 2015. To aid in the hunt wildlife officials are going to offer training for the general public. Training offered will teach the public how to identify the Burmese python, which will help with the hunt, but will also help with reporting sightings year round. After all how can the public report the snake if they can’t identify it.