Imagine for a moment coming across a reptile larger than you could possibly imagine. A Burmese python the size of a giraffe was recently discovered in the USA, and is now making headlines not only for its record size, but also for the problems this invasive species seems impossible to stop. Python hunter Jake Waleri captured the longest Burmese python on record while in Florida's Big Cypress National Preserve.
“It's the only snake I've ever seen that scared me enough that I didn't know what to do,”
Waleri said of the experience in a video released by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “It was a fight, and it was a good fight, certainly a fight to remember.”
A danger to the local ecosystem
While snakes generally play a vital role in their ecosystems, the Burmese python has proved anything but useful for South Florida. This invasive species has become increasingly problematic since it was first recorded in the wild around the year 2000, after pet owners presumably released them and they began breeding.
“It's great to be able to make an impact on South Florida's environment,”
Waleri said in a Conservancy press release. “We love this ecosystem and try to preserve it as much as possible.”
According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), these snakes feed on more than 70 types of local mammals in environmentally sensitive areas in and around the Florida Everglades. The lack of natural predators has prompted the state to establish an annual hunt with cash prizes in the hope of reducing the reptiles and slowing or halting their continued spread.
A complex invasion problem
Unfortunately, the problem of invasive snakes won't go away on its own. Just days before capturing this gigantic reptile, officials reported another record-breaking discovery when they removed 111 eggs and the nearly 14-foot-long mother who had laid them from the Everglades, marking the largest Burmese python nest ever found in Florida.
Both discoveries underscore just how complex the problem of preventing ecosystem-devouring reptiles is likely to be. And according to the experts, it's not a problem that could have a permanent solution.
“I don't think there's a scenario in which nothing can be done,”
Charles van Rees, PhD, conservation scientist and naturalist at the University of Georgia, told Best Life. “That said, all of our solutions are now in a gray area of compromise between how much of Florida's ecological integrity we want to keep and how much we're willing to spend to conserve it. Managing invasive species is extremely expensive, and you have to do it forever.”
In short, it's crucial to start managing pythons if they can't be eradicated outright, focusing in particular on certain areas where wildlife needs to be protected.