14 August 2012

And now, for something
completely different..."
   - Monty Python's Flying Circus

Okay, so let’s set the record straight right now -– I am not now, nor have ever been, a fan of snakes. As one of Eve’s daughters, I naturally recoil when confronted by a slithering reminder of mankind’s fall from grace. My reaction to such encounters is invariably horror, followed by a hasty retreat that puts as much distance between me and the slithering reptile as is humanly possible.

Today, I read that a Burmese python was discovered in the Florida Everglades that makes my reaction seem fully warranted, if not actually understated. They’ve found a record-breaking snake, at 17 feet, 7 inches (5.3 meters) long, 165 pounds and nearly a foot in girth. As if that’s not sobering enough, this mammoth python is a female, carrying 87 eggs. The pythons are considered an invasive species, and now scientists are worrying that the snakes will be a danger to humans as well as other species in their vicinity.

I’d have to agree, since even reading about this beast has raised my heart rate considerably. I can only imagine what an actual encounter might do to me. The news article indicated that researchers found feathers and bones inside the snake (oh, good, it’s an ex-snake) which they’ll process to determine what its feeding habits were. I imagine that a python hauling around 87 eggs could work up quite an appetite. Birds, turtles, raccoons, opposums, fish, skunks, squirrels, dogs, cats and now humans must share their space with a large, ravenous, deadly predator. 

It’s not a thought that comforts me.

I also learned that these snakes were imported to this continent via exotic pet sellers nearly thirty years ago. I can just imagine the internal conversation the first seller had with himself:

“Whoa. Look at that thing. It must be ten feet long.”
“What if it gets loose? Is it dangerous?”
“Aww, how fast can a snake move? It’s not like it’s poisonous.”
“Somebody’s going to want to own it. I wonder how much I can get for it.”

And just like that, voila! The decision was made to bring Burmese pythons into the United States. Now, thirty years after the fact, the pythons that did get loose, either accidentally or deliberately, are thriving (many are longer than 10 feet) and reproducing at a seriously alarming rate (dozens of eggs per hatching). Brace yourself. This is what we’re up against:

Burmese Python

Excuse me. I’m off to find St. Patrick, now that we really need him.

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