Brock Pythons Eat Kids! Run!

TreeHugger carried some interesting posts this week, and I nearly missed out on this one, detailing the recent sightings of African rock pythons in the Everglades.  Florida already has an established population of invasive Burmese pythons.   Apparently some state officials are concerned that it would be possible for the rock pythons and the Burmese to interbreed and create a “super snake” species.  (I’m partial to the name Brock python for the new hybrids.)

From my viewpoint, this seems a bit overblown.  Are invasive species an enormous problem?  Definitely.  Should we be concerned? Surely.  Is there any reason to highlight the fact that both species are known to eat large game and have been reported to attack children?  Mmmm.. probably not.  Afterall, the kids have to actually be out in the Everglades to begin with and, as we well know, most parents don’t trust their python-meal-sized toddlers and eight-year-olds in the backyard, much less wetland wilderness.

Perhaps that sentiment seems strange coming from an environmental educator, but its no less than the truth.  There are plenty of potentially dangerous wildlife in Florida already – American crocodiles, American alligators, bull sharks, etc.  There doesn’t really seem to be a reason to highlight this potential human impact when considering a “super snake” situation.   Are we really suggesting that a Brock python would aggressively target human children as they wandered by on their way to school?

I think its much more reasonable, and potentially positive, to focus on the impacts that this new species could have on native wildlife within the Everglades system.  Will they target juvenile alligators?  Will they eat bobcats?  Might they go after white tailed deer, gray foxes, sandhill cranes, wood stork nestlings, or indigo snakes?  How much of the Everglades is truly rock python suitable habitat?  Are any of our current predators going to be interested in eating them?  How fast do they reproduce?  Can they survive Florida’s winter extremes and seasonal patterns of waterfall?

Until we can answer some of the serious questions concerning invasive species management, I just don’t see a reason to get anxious and worked up about a “super snake” hybrid.

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