Why it’s a good thing baby whales aren’t the size of goldfish, or, Alligator v. Python

Not exactly breaking news, but Burmese pythons are setting up shop in the Everglades, and–apparently–they quite like it.

Each year a significant number of Burmese pythons – like the snake on sale in a pet store here – are taken home by people who never quite understand the presale warning.

They are told point-blank that their 20-inch “baby” will probably grow into a 20-foot adult and live for 25 years. That’s a lot of mice, rats, rabbits, and chickens to feed an adult snake capable of quickly dispatching other beloved pets, children, or even adults.

Authorities in South Florida suspect that many frustrated or frightened Burmese python owners have been releasing their snakes into the nearby Everglades rather than trying to find a new home in captivity for them.

In 2005, 95 snakes were captured in the Everglades. So far this year, more than 154 have been picked up.

But Python Pete is on the job, along with plenty of good-natured humans. Despite this, the battle’s far from over, and the outlook isn’t particularly rosy:

“We have been remarkably unsuccessful in eradicating any firmly established alien species in Florida,” says Richard Bartlett, a reptile expert in Gainesville, Fla.

(Christian Science Monitor: “Gators Beware: Pythons Moving into Everglades,” by Warren Richey [Dec 19, 2006])