Snow in Florida: Big chill culling unwanted iguanas and pythons
The more pythons gone the better, says a Florida wildlife official. But snow and unusual cold are also straining survival of native species like sea turtles and snook in the tropical Sunshine State.
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Florida’s big chill also plays into one of the biggest Florida stories last year: The controversy over the explosion of the Burmese python in and around Everglades National Park, and whether it should lead to a national ban on some exotic pets.
After Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) brought a massive python hide to Congress to highlight the up to 150,000 large non-native snakes plying the swamps and threatening the ecosystem and even humans, the state last summer introduced its first-ever python bounty hunt, which has had limited success in pushing back the extremely reclusive and hard-to-find snakes. (Read a Monitor article about the python bounty hunt here.)
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But Friday the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission put out a press release urging hunters to use the cold to help them find the pythons. The animals are likely to be forced by the cold to come out of their hiding places and find sunny spots – along roads and levees – to bask.
Snake hunting authorized
The release reads: “All properly licensed and permitted hunters have the authority, if they wish, to harvest pythons and other reptiles of concern (Indian python, reticulated python, northern and southern African rock python, amethystine or scrub python, green anaconda and Nile monitor lizard) on Everglades, Francis S. Taylor, Holey Land and Rotenberger WMAs and Big Cypress National Preserve.”
“The more pythons removed, the better,” says Ms. Ferraro.
Whether wanted or unwanted, animals and fish are struggling across Florida, and even revived sea turtles could face further problems since reptile hypothermia can lead to a compromised immune system, says Mr. Squires at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.
“Sea turtles are endangered, and with only one out of several thousand hatchlings surviving to reach reproductive age, an event like this obviously takes on significance,” he adds.
In Riviera Beach, north of Miami, and Apollo Beach, near Tampa, manatees and rays are using outflows from nuclear power plants as hot tubs, drawing scores of curious Floridians to watch. In St. Pete Beach and other places around the state, biologists have reported significant cold-related fish kills including snook, catfish, and juvenile lane snapper unable to deal with the region’s big chill.
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