The Washington Times - July 18, 2009, 11:31AM

In Florida, wildlife officials are hardly alarmed any more when someone calls and says they’ve seen what appears to be a large snake – a python, in particular.

The number of pythons in Florida is said to number in the thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands, and all of it began when ignorant people bought pythons in pet shops, then released them in the wild as they realized they couldn’t take care of them any longer.


Why? They grow and grow and begin to be a huge problem in an apartment or a neighborhood house.

A 2-year-old girl from Oxford, in Sumter County, recently was found asphyxiated by a Burmese python that measured eight feet in length. I heard the sad news on a TV broadcast that identified the snake’s owner as a boyfriend of the dead girl’s mother. The snake obviously had not been properly secured inside its terrarium; it came out of its enclosure and entered the child’s bedroom, eventually wrapping itself around the child and squeezing the life from its little body.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist now has authorized a python posse, consisting of snake specialists that will be rewarded every time they kill one of the large snakes.

According to Southwest Florida Online, experts at the Savannah River Ecology Lab in South Carolina fear the pythons are heading north. They are currently monitoring a group of exotic pythons to determine whether or not they would be able to survive a northward migration. The researchers have taken 10 pythons found in Florida, implanted them with radio transmitters, and put them into a 400-foot pit where they’ll remain for a year. The snakes’ body temperature and well-being will be monitored and it then allowed to move on regular ground. The laboratory wants to see if the pythons are anxious to travel northward.

When the Associated Press interviewed herpetologist Whit Gibbons, the scientist who is a professor of ecology at the University of Georgia and a member of the python project, said, “They of course have an impact on native species. If you have a big old python eating five times as much as another species that eats the same prey, it’s a competitive thing.

“A 20-foot python, if it grabbed one of us, would bite us and then within just — instantly — seconds, it would be wrapped all the way around you and squeezing the life out of you,” he told the AP.

Not a pleasant thought, is it? Yet there are people who continually believe they can buck the odds and safely domesticate wild creatures that have no more businesses being here in the United States than I do living on Mars.