Floridians love to import exotic stuff, especially animals. The trouble is, we also release many of our exotic animals into the wild once they outgrow their aquariums, pens and cages.
Everglades National Park is a favorite dumping ground for unwanted exotics. Now park personnel and wildlife experts are combating the proliferation of the most dangerous species to be released in the Everglades: the Burmese python. Federal and state officials should do everything legal to eradicate this menace from the park.
Florida officials are asking the U.S. Interior Department to approve a plan to put a bounty on the Burmese python in the Glades. Gov. Charlie Crist has endorsed the plan, but federal officials are reluctant to sign on, citing concerns about how the bounty program would operate and if it would help. On the positive side, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar points out that a similar bounty effort has worked out West, and he is inclined to approve the Everglades plan.
Clearly, action needs to be taken, and the bounty appears to a viable option. Time is of the essence. Officials estimate that more 150,000 pythons are in the Glades. They grow to 19 feet to 21 feet on average, depending on their sex, lay as many as 100 eggs at a time and often live to be 25.
They endanger many native animals. Scientists have found deer and wildcats in the reptiles' stomachs, and they are said to be the first real threat to Florida's alligators. In 2007, the state passed a bill making it a crime to release pythons into the wild, but people continue to release the big snakes. It is a matter of time before humans become victims.
Federal efforts to stop the spread of the snakes have failed. It is time to try a bounty — one that is large enough to attract the best hunters.