SpOT­light

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - SOCIETY -

Snakes on a hy­droplane They used to be a rare sight. Now Burmese pythons have a stran­gle­hold on Florida’s Ever­glades wilder­ness, dev­as­tat­ing the na­tive wildlife. The pythons, which av­er­age 2.7m long but can reach 5.5m, are pro­lific breed­ers and apex preda­tors, even known to take down al­li­ga­tors. “We’ve never seen any­thing like it. We’re see­ing a 99 per cent re­duc­tion in fur-bear­ing an­i­mals in Ever­glades Na­tional Park and sur­round­ing nat­u­ral ar­eas,” says Mike Kirk­land, man­ager of a lo­cal python erad­i­ca­tion pro­gram. “You’ll be hard-pressed to find a sin­gle squir­rel, rac­coon, pos­sum…” The pythons have been breed­ing in the Ever­glades since 2000, the re­sult of ex­otic pets be­ing dumped. Wildlife man­agers es­ti­mate the num­ber of snakes at be­tween 10,000 and 100,000 and last month, hunters caught and killed their 1000th Burmese python in 14 months. Says hunter Dusty Crum: “You used to see 20, 30, 40 rab­bits on any given morn­ing. I’ve only seen one since we started this pro­gram – and he looked scared.”

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