July 24, 2014

Florida Trend's Floridian of the Year

Fla. Newsmakers of 2009

People who made an impact in business, economy, science, environment, government, education, sports, philanthropy, media and our fallen soldiers.

The Environment
» Python

Burmese Python
Burmese Python: Bad
African Rock Python
African rock python: Worse
Nobody knows even imprecisely how many dozens or hundreds or thousands of pythons now live in the Everglades and surrounding areas, but the animals slithered their way into the news in a big way in 2009. Burmese pythons — presumed to be the most numerous — aren't generally dangerous to humans but are viewed as big threats to the Glades ecosystem, with the potential to displace native mammals, birds and other reptiles. The now-infamous picture of the Burmese python that exploded while swallowing an alligator testifies to the creature's appetite. Solitary except during the spring mating season, Burmese python couples produce between 15 and 100 eggs a year. Individual snakes can live for up to 30 years and can grow to nearly 25 feet long and 200 pounds. Burmese pythons are good swimmers — at least eight have made it from the Everglades to the Florida Keys, where the Nature Conservancy has mounted a "python patrol." Media coverage has ramped up the fear factor with a focus on the discovery in Miami of African rock pythons, which are considered much more aggressive and dangerous than their Burmese cousins.

The state has been ringing the alarm bell — mostly quietly — about invasive species in Florida for at least 15 years. This summer, it began taking action — tepidly — to constrain the growth in the python population, issuing special licenses to snake hunters who subsequently killed 37 of the constrictors. State wildlife officials hope to issue even more licenses next year. Meanwhile, sportsmen with regular hunting licenses can kill any snakes they come across in certain areas of the Everglades.

A note of irony: According to National Geographic, "habitat depletion, continued demand for Burmese pythons in the pet trade and hunting for their skins and flesh ... have landed these graceful giants on the threatened species list" in their native environments in Southeast Asia and Africa. — Mark Howard

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