Slithering Toward Babylon

Python Fodder

What’s 17-feet-long, weighs 164 pounds and can swallow a 75-pound deer whole?

If you guessed Burmese python, come on down and collect your Magic 8-Ball. Outlook: Dubious.

The breathtaking speed with which this particular invasive species has decimated the native wildlife of the Florida Everglades has been making headlines for several years now. But you know how it is with headlines. A few hours after reading one you’re hungry for another.

I imagine the Burmese pythons feel the same way after snacking on deer. And here’s where the reptile meets the road.

Let’s suppose you’re among those carefree scoffers of the scientific method who consider global warming another half-baked liberal notion aimed at suppressing the great capitalist surge. Well, be that as it may, the data collected by weather analysts over the last 100 years suggests that at the very least the pattern of milder winters and significantly hotter summers is here to stay. And the thing about snakes is: they love the heat. Can’t live without it. Also can’t live on love alone.

In fact, it seems likely that, once they’ve finished off the deer, alligators and raccoons in Florida they’ll start slithering north to find food. Plenty of deer, rabbits and dogs in Georgia, South Carolina and points north.

Normally I’m a live-and-let-live kind of gal. Snakes have never been high on my list of cute pet prospects, but as a former country gardener I learned to value their place on the food chain. Snakes excel at rodent control, and although mice and rats enjoy a special niche in the realm of children’s literature, I never warmed to their presence in my kitchen drawers. Still. If it came to a choice between a Burmese python and an ordinary house mouse, I’d take the mouse.

However, if things keep going at the current rate that choice won’t be available.

Currently there are an estimated couple hundred thousand Burmese pythons on the loose in Florida. The fact that the government has belatedly banned their importation is a bit of barn door slamming long after the horse is out of sight. The pythons already here are breeding at a blistering pace. That 17-footer mentioned above was carrying 87 eggs.

Eighty-seven. Do the math.

So, maybe the drill-baby-drill types don’t care about spotted owls or delicate forest ecosystems or even coral reefs. The Burmese pythons don’t care either. They’ll just eat your dog, your cat, possibly your toddler.

Government can’t fix all the problems we bring on ourselves. But I sure as hell hope they get a handle on this python thing, or it’s Maine, here I come.

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