Florida Man Kills 17.5-Foot Burmese Python in Everglades
Earlier this week, a Florida man caught and killed a 17-foot, 5-inch female Burmese python in the Miami-Dade County Everglades.
The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) praised Homestead-based hunter Kyle Penniston's record-setting catch for its Python Elimination Program. Weighing 120 pounds, she was certainly a big one and she even bit Penniston's hand before she was shot on Monday night, according to his Facebook post.
This is certainly not an attack on Penniston or SFWMD, but one can't help but feel bad for the gargantuan reptile as well as the 1,859 other snakes that hunters have "eliminated" on behalf of the program. Yes, they may look scary. Yes, they may pose a threat to humans. After all, these apex predators are swallowing up native wildlife including birds, rabbits, alligators and even deer. However, it's not the fault of these snakes that they are there.
Burmese pythons, which are native to India, southeast Asia and the East Indies, should not be in Florida. But due to the exotic pet trade—as well as people who are unequipped to care for a carnivorous constrictor that can grow 20 feet in length and have a girth as big as a telephone pole—they've become an unfortunate invasive species with no natural predator in the Everglades ecosystem.
SFWMD's Python Elimination Program explains it quite simply:
"The non-native Burmese python was likely introduced to Florida's Everglades by accidental or intentional releases by pet owners. Once sought-after commodities, pythons have been sold by breeders as pets or showpieces to exotic animal collectors. Since making their way into the bountiful grounds of the Everglades, these giant constrictors have thrived, assuming a top position on the food web."
These creatures are generally docile and are hunted for their uniquely patterned skin, according to National Geographic. Although they have a notable presence in the Everglades, these big snakes are listed as "vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
SFWMD said in a press release that their Python Elimination Program pays qualified individuals to survey land for the pythons and to humanely euthanize each one they catch in the field (according to American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines) and then "deposit them at designated drop-off locations."
Removing the species, as well as reducing the populations of other invasive plants and animals, will help preserve the rare Everglades ecosystem, the department said.
"Just six months after eliminating the first 1,000 pythons from District lands, this program is about to double that total because of a true team effort," said SFWMD scientist Mike Kirkland, project manager for the Python Elimination Program. "With the Governing Board's unwavering support, District staff and a dedicated group of hunters are working to help control this invasive species and protect native wildlife."
Surprise #Python Hybrid Could Pose Greater Threat to #Everglades #Wildlife https://t.co/0kSQWdwh7k @foe_us @ConservationOrg— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1535677241.0
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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