Monday, October 12, 2009

Snakes Gone Wild

There is more than one way to damage the environment. Although we think of smoke belching automobiles and chemical waste as big problems, a careless pet owner can cause a lot of damage as well. Reuters News made this point in an article on Florida's delicate wildlife. It seems that pet owners who tire of their snakes when they get too big often release them in the wild. Although this might not be a long term problem in cold northern cities, Florida's warm climate has proven to be a hospitable breeding ground to various species of anacondas, boa constrictors and other large snakes. Reuters News reports as follows on this growing problem.

"Burmese pythons and other giant snakes imported as pets could endanger some of America's most important parks and wilderness areas if they are allowed to multiply, according to a report released on Tuesday.
Wildlife experts say the Burmese python is distributed across thousands of square miles (kilometers) in south Florida. There could be tens of thousands in the Everglades, a wildlife refuge that is home to the Florida panther and other endangered species.
The Burmese python and four other non-native snakes -- boa constrictors, yellow anacondas, northern and southern African pythons -- are considered "high-risk" threats to the health of U.S. ecosystems because they eat native birds and animals, the U.S. Geological Survey report said."

The New Yorker did a full length feature on this problem back in April, part of which is available to non subscribers on their web site. An informative podcast is part of what is available to the general public.

Anyone who has reentered the US from abroad has been questioned about animal, fruit and vegetables that they might be carrying. I once had some sandwiches confiscated upon reentry to the US. This is a needed annoyance. When a species is transplanted from one continent to another, it is entering a system of natural checks and balances. In some cases, an animal or a plant can enter a system in which it has no natural predators. It can also prove to be a serious threat to native species that are not equipped to resist it. is a web site that deals with non native species of plants, birds and animals that have disrupted ecosystems all across America.

Being human carries with it great responsibility. Even tossing an extingushed cigarette or a plastic fastener fro the cans of a six pack can have negative repurcussions. Releasing a pet into the wild that is burdensome can set off a chain of events that can endanger an entire species. People who buy pets should really do their homework. Babies of a species are markedly different from adult animals, which can revert to their wild instincts with sometimes disastrous consequences. It is far better to find out from a book that boa constrictors and monkeys can kill and injure than to find out first hand. Perhaps it might be possible to have a fenced in wildlife preserve to accomodate exotic pets that are no longer wanted by their owners. Even better might be to repatriate such animals when possible so they can be in a suitable environment.

Another possibility might be to have a hunting season in which human beings compensate for the lack of natural predators. Even in our troubled economy, there is still a limited appetite for snake meat and exotic leather goods. It might be best for all if we try to make the best of the mess created by exotic pet owners and thoise sly folks who slip exotic species through customs. Being at the top of the food chain carries with it some heavy responsibilities. Reuters News and the New Yorker have brought thius point home vividly. We would be wise to take heed.


On a lighter note, I am including a menu for the Road Kill Cafe, the existence of which is, I gather an urban legend.

No comments: