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How HUGE pythons are wiping out Florida mammal populations


A new report shows that the proliferation of pythons coincides with a decrease of mammals in the Florida Everglades. In this 2009 photo researchers hold a 15-foot, 162-pound Burmese python captured in the park just after it ate a 6-foot alligator

A burgeoning population of huge pythons — many of them pets that were turned loose by their owners when they got too big — appears to be wiping out large numbers of raccoons, opossums, bobcats and other mammals in the Everglades, a study says.
The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that sightings of medium-size mammals are down dramatically — as much as 99 percent, in some cases — in areas where pythons and other large, non-native constrictor snakes are known to be lurking.
Scientists fear the pythons could disrupt the food chain and upset the Everglades' environmental balance in ways difficult to predict.

At least 1,825 Burmese pythons have been caught in and around Everglades National Park since 2000. Many used to be pets and were freed by their owners when they got too big. Here is one with its nest captured in 2009

'The effects of declining mammal populations on the overall Everglades ecosystem, which extends well beyond the national park boundaries, are likely profound,' said John Willson, a research scientist at Virginia Tech University and co-author of the study.
Tens of thousands of Burmese pythons, which are native to Southeast Asia, are believed to be living in the Everglades, where they thrive in the warm, humid climate.
While many were apparently released by their owners, others may have escaped from pet shops during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and have been reproducing ever since.

The National Academy of Science report released on Monday shows a sharp decrease in mammal sightings. This photo earlier this month shows Sec. of Interior Ken Salazar, center, and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fl, left, looking at a 13-foot python from the park

The report says the effect on the overall ecosystem is hard to predict. Declines among bobcats and foxes, which eat rabbits, could be linked to pythons' feasting on rabbits. On the flip side, declines among raccoons, which eat eggs, may help some turtles, crocodiles and birds.
Scientists point with concern to what happened in Guam, where the invasive brown tree snake has killed off birds, bats and lizards that pollinated trees and flowers and dispersed seeds. That has led to declines in native trees, fish-eating birds and certain plants.

In 2010, Florida banned private ownership of Burmese pythons. Earlier this month, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a federal ban on the import of Burmese pythons and three other snakes.
Salazar said Monday that the study shows why such restrictions were needed.
'This study paints a stark picture of the real damage that Burmese pythons are causing to native wildlife and the Florida economy,' he said.

source: dailymail