Pythons, other invasive species threaten Florida's wildlife

Spinning tales about protecting Florida wildlife and environments. In Florida, there is concern for all wildlife whether is it a flourishing, threatened or an endangered animal or plant.

Active commitment protects affected species such as the manatee (injured by boats), hawksbill sea turtle (pursued for shells, meat and eggs), Florida panther (loss of habitat, inbreeding, past senseless shootings) or the ghost orchid (over collected).

Of serious concern is the release of invasive species, which are detrimental to wildlife and ecosystems.

For example, the green iguana might be set free by pet owners when it becomes too large, aggressive or sick.  Then, it might feed on bird eggs and tree snails, erode foundations or damage vegetation. In addition, It might  reach more than 5 feet and lay more than 70 eggs.

The Brazilian pepper tree, adorned with bright red berries, was imported as an ornamental. It dominates its surroundings, thus eliminating native plants from which animals obtain food and shelter.

Most problematic is the invasive Burmese python, which has sabotaged the ecosystem of the Everglades and nearby areas.  It was first sighted in the 1980s, possibly escaped or released by pet owners. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew exacerbated the situation by enabling this species to flee from exotic wildlife venues, breeding facilities or pet stores.

Reproduction for this python is alarming. The average nest displays more than 35 eggs. It possibly can lay 100 eggs. Therefore, the population is escalating.

Regrettably, it has largely reduced the population of animals such as raccoons, opossum, rabbits and the fox. It also feeds on the eggs of birds such as the limpkin and guineafowl. It competes with the alligator as apex predator and is capable of swallowing a deer or alligator.

The Florida climate is obviously accommodating.  With global warming predictions, it is feared that this python will venture north.

Officials have introduced legislation and sponsored hunts (derbies) and trapping efforts to decrease the population of the Burmese Python.

Biocontrol is being researched with the reintroduction of predators such as the Jaguar.  Fortunately, this reptile is allowed to be humanely killed on private land. Unfortunately, it is a master at concealment.

Without accountability, invasive creatures will continue to encroach and compete for food and territory. An upcoming threat is the African rock python. In Florida probably since 2001, it might reach 20 feet like the Burmese Python. It has been observed near a residential area 15 miles from downtown Miami.

Undeniably, responsible pet ownership is essential.  Moreover, sanctioned hunting, fishing and boating must prevail. And when picking a wildflower or planting a wild tree or bush, the status of the species should be considered.