Study Finds Burmese Pythons Are Decimating the Mammals of the Everglades
Bobcats in the Everglades National Park? Down 87.5%.
Opossum? Down 98.9%.
Raccoons? Down 99.3%.
Those are the findings based on eight years of road observations in the Everglades National Park. The cause, reported in the journal PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, is Burmese pythons.
"They are a new top predator in Everglades National Park—one that shouldn't be there," Michael Dorcas, a professor at Davidson college and one of the study's authors, told the BBC.
The proliferation of Burmese pythons is often blamed on the pet trade, although no one can say for certain where they came from. What's more important is what they might do—as with many invasive species, they're living in an environment that is completely unprepared for them. “For at least 16 million years, there have been no snakes in Florida large enough to prey on medium-sized mammals,” the report says, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
In mid-January, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that he would approve a ban on importing Burmese pythons. Senator Bill Nelson has been pushing for the ban for five years, famously unrolling a 17-foot python skin in front of a Senate panel to prove his point
In addition to the species mentioned earlier, the python could also threaten the endangered Florida panther. But there is one potential upside, mentioned in the Christian Science Monitor article: By cutting down the raccoon population, the pythons could actually make life a little easier on turtles, crocodiles, and birds, whose nests are constantly raided for eggs by raccoons.