Putting the Squeeze on Wildlife   Leave a comment

In yet another example of invasive species causing problems for native wildlife, we’ve learned that exotic snakes – another word for non-native – are destroying native wildlife populations in many locations in the United States. One of the areas that is suffering the most is Florida – particularly the Everglades – that has been a healthy environment to hundreds of different plant and animal species for thousands of years. But now, large snakes – particularly Burmese pythons and other types of constrictor-snakes – are literally eating all the animals they can find. And this means that, unless the snakes are controlled, one day the native environment of the Everglades will be forever changed and many of the plants and animals we all know – like raccoons and rabbits and native snakes – might be gone anywhere these invasive snakes live.

Constrictors, like these pythons, are popular pets. Even though it’s never a good idea to have a wild animal as a pet (and it’s against the law in many places), some people don’t understand that a little, cute snake will one day grow up to be a big, not-so-cute-and-always-hungry-snake. So, particularity in places like Florida and other hot, humid locations, if the pet snake gets too big to take care of or too expensive to feed, the owners just take snakey out into the forest or swamp and let him loose. After all, it’s where snakes like to live isn’t it? That might be wonderful for the snakes, but not for the native wildlife that the snake finds and eats. Native animals that have never seen a python before, and have no way to run or hide or protect themselves. In their native environments – the jungles of Asia and South America– pythons are an important contribution to the ecosystem. They are part of the cycle that keeps everything balanced. But set loose where they don’t belong, they are a disaster: Scientists have learned pythons and other constrictors are eating up to 90% or more of many native animals including foxes and deer and even alligators. It’s possible that a large python (and they can grow to about 20 feet long!), could eat a cougar or bear.

Alligator and Python  NPS WIKI

Native vs. invasive. A contest that should never happen. (Actual photo taken in the Florida Everglades. Final result of battle unknown.)

What can we do to help our native environment from these invasive eating machines? First of all, don’t go out looking for snakes! Most snakes are harmless to people, but you need to be an expert to know which snake is which. The best we can do is never keep a non-native snake – or any wild animal – as a pet. They are happier in their own ecosystem, not in a cage or box in our living room. Zoos and other wildlife experts will know what to do with an exotic snake, NEVER set a pet snake loose outside. Always be alert and aware of any wildlife that you haven’t seen before, or that you know is not usually found in your area. And spread the word about invasive species and the damage they can cause. Remember, it’s not just the plants and animals that are part of a healthy environment – we all are part of the cycle, too.

 

Posted August 23, 2012 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in ECOVIA Central

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