Python Challenge Opening Day

Theme song: Listen to Radiohead’s haunting & beautiful acoustic Bulletproof.

With just a week to go in the Python Challenge there are over 1,000 people registered to hunt the invasive Burmese python. Wildlife biologists estimate tens of thousands of pythons exist in south Florida, wreaking havoc on the small mammal population. Only 41 have been [legitimately] caught and killed since the contest began.*

It is a controversial communications campaign with a cocktail of media machismo,  legitimate invasive species education & citizen science, and potential visible instruction on how to harass an innocent animal.

So I went down to Big Cypress and found something more rare. A native, beautiful Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake. It was just trying to cross the road. Watch as it progressively coils up and hides its head to protect itself from our cameras:

 So here’s the deal. Burmese pythons are eating machines. They will not eat a rattlesnake (like a Kingsnake) but they will compete with it. They’re wiping out  small native mammals like rabbits, oppossums, raccoons, etc. These are the same prey items that rattlesnakes eat- both snakes use thermoreceptors (heat-seeking pits) to find their lunch. The whole ecosystem has been affected- and it’s not just the pythons. Florida has more nonnative reptile and amphibian species than anywhere else in the world.


What you can do:

  • Don’t get exotic animals as pets.
  • Whatever reptile/amphibian you choose, make sure it’s captive-bred & don’t let it go.
  • Download the app to report invasive species in Florida.

*Fun Fact: Snakes have over 200 vertebrae (we, like giraffes, have only 7 neck vertebrae). You can’t easily break their neck. They are ectothermic (cold blooded) which essentially means that their blood pressure is so low that they don’t quickly bleed to death. Basically, it’s hard as hell to kill a snake. It’s gruesome. Don’t try it.

Published by Susannah Smith

At the intersection of wildlife and human behavior

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