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The men fighting Florida’s python epidemic (1843magazine.com)
70 points by xkr 37 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 88 comments

There is a simple natural permanent solution for this problem, just introduce an Apex predator - the majestic Jaguar. Jaguars used to inhabit the southern parts of North America - they seldom attack humans but they will happily eat snakes and alligators. They could restore health to the ecosystem, also make it more interesting, thus also benefiting the tourist industry.

"they seldom attack humans but they will happily eat snakes and alligators." This may not be a good idea. A lot of Indian towns are now facing problems of leopards attacking (and sometimes killing) humans, and these attacks have started to happen in crowded cities like Mumbai. Leopards earlier never attacked humans, but as they lost their habitat and the leopard population has grown, they now routinely attack people, sometimes carrying off kids.

Right. A leopard came at least once somewhere inside Pune, which is a big city, and attacked some people, IIRC. And there are many cases of leopards attacking people in smaller towns and villages, on the outskirts of them, that I have read of, in Maharashtra (state in India, in which Pune and Mumbai are) and probably in other states too.

There is actually some incredible footage of Jaguars inside Indian cities in planet earth 2. In case anyone is curious.

So then it just becomes: does the reduction in snake problems outweigh the increase in jaguar problems?

True but they have a varied enough diet that snakes may only be marginally affected. To bring down pythons you'd need a more targeted predator, or a virus or bacteria or something that targets pythons alone.

From "Bart the Mother", Simpsons season 10:

"SKINNER Well, I was wrong. The lizards are a godsend.

LISA But isn't that a bit short-sighted? What happens when we're overrun by lizards?

SKINNER No problem. We simply unleash wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes. They'll wipe out the lizards.

LISA But aren't the snakes even worse?

SKINNER Yes, but we're prepared for that. We've lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat.

LISA But then we're stuck with gorillas!

SKINNER No, that's the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death."

jaguars, at least, wouldn't be being introduced but re-introduced.

You don’t want to wipe out pythons. You want to put pressure on their population.

They're an predatory invasive species that's been clogging up dam gates and killing native predators like alligators. The goal, if it were even possible without causing more harm, would be eradication from that ecosystem.

Why is there value in keeping the ecosystem in a state we're familiar with? It's not like alligators were "always there" either. Animals migrate, things change, and us ensuring that the animal populations always match what they were in 1995 is hubris.

I agree with the direction of your idea but I don’t think it applies here. Invasive species are a major cause of loss of biodiversity. Typically, habitats change over a much larger timescale. If you introduce a species that’s suited for a habitat and it has no natural predators, you’re going to end up losing a lot of biodiversity as a result. Why is biodiversity important? Biodiversity gives us new opportunities for research (lots of new medical discoveries come from biodiversity), it allows an ecosystem to adapt to pressure (imagine if there’s a deadly new avian flu and you have 10 vs 100 bird species in an area, it’s a lot less likely that all birds will be wiped out in the second scenario as there’s more varied adaptations in that system that might allow the birds to survive). Change is of course natural for all ecosystems but as you lose biodiversity from things like invasive species, you lose the factors that allow an ecosystem to surmount potential extinction (extirpation?) events.

If you apply this same logic to humans, don’t you wind up with a xenophobic perspective? This seems like an alt-right manifesto but applied to animals not humans.

If you don't see the difference between animal control and xenophobic practices of population control, please seek psychological help.

Alligators evolved during the Late Cretaceous (100M-65M years ago) and populated the waterways of the south-eastern US around that time. Pythons were introduced to that ecosystem roughly 30 years ago.

noahA does a pretty good job of explaining why the current thinking is that invasive species are a very bad thing but I agree it's a form of hubris to think we can control these things when humans seem to want to follow a whole other set of behaviors. Still, I think it's a good idea to try to motivate good stewardship.

Here's an incomplete list of other invasive species in the Everglades: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_invasive_species_in_th...

> just introduce an Apex predator - the majestic Jaguar

This is just what Florida needs: Jaguars.

I can already imagine the new "floridaman" headlines...

On top of that, what could go wrong?

There is an apex preditor, but they are very rare. There are "Florida Panthers" in the everglades area. When I was visiting the everglades years ago they were very endangered.. The problem is they probably eat similar food as the snakes.


> There is an apex preditor

I thought you were joking but it's probably just a typo.

Until the dogs and cats start disappearing. Local wildlife. Apex predation is a risky tactic.

No jaguars (anymore), but the Florida Panther still prowls about.

Were jaguars ever in Florida? It seems like they were only in America in the south west.

They may seldom attack humans, but it wouldn't be safe/smart to let your kids play outside if there were jaguars around.

Except there are already rock pythons, alligators, crocodiles, water moccasins, water bugs, fire ants, rattlesnakes, brown recluses, coyotes, wild dogs, cats, and pigs... I'm forgetting a few. Florida's natural wildlife isn't exactly friendly.

You forgot the worst, Florida Man.

Does anyone have links to more companies selling these animals' skins? Has anyone bought any of these and can share a review? Any other recent updates to what's going on in this market?




Unfortunately, it looks like their carcasses are toxic. So food cycling them won't work.


Anyone know how to cost-effectively bioremediate mercury laden materials?

Also, I'd like to support stellar Everglades python hunters, on Patreon etc, and it looks like there are several.. I need to go through this later: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=everglades+hunt...

Estimate of 100,000 pythons in the wild, perhaps starting from an inadvertent release in 1992, and ...

> Pythons face few predators here. In the spring, each adult female lays up to 100 eggs. Once her female children reach the age of four, they too begin to breed.

How many pythons would need to be caught each year to reduce the population to, say, less than 1,000? I think this infestation may need a different approach.

To you that live in parts of the world that have snakes, do they affect you in any way?

There are no snakes where I live, and I'm extremely uncomfortable just thinking about the possibility of one entering your home or seeing one.

Imagine cleaning your garage and finding a snake curled up behind some stuff, the state of terror I would be in is out of this world.

There's Snakes where I live (Australia). You just kind of normalize them - don't really give them much thought.

Growing up I was always told "Snakes are more afraid of you then you are of them" and "Snakes are only hostile if you provoke them."

You hear stories from time to time about people's dogs being attacked by snakes but never really a concern. I've had lizards wander into my house (occasionally on the larger side - a few years ago I heard rustling in my kitchen found a Lizard that was about 20cm - picked it up with a beach towel and released it outside) but thankfully never any snakes.

Poisonous spiders are more of a concern for me then snakes, especially Redback's. I've found these in my house multiple times.


I'm not sure why you are worried about redbacks - no one has died from them in decades if I recall correctly and I don't think hospitals even bother with anti-venom anymore. Besides which, they are slow moving, docile and fairly easy to spot. I think they only time they represent a threat is if you accidentally touched one by picking up rocks etc.

The funnel web on the other hand, is a nasty piece of work ...

Nobody has died from a funnel web since the antivenin was introduced many years ago. Still, I'd prefer to keep my distance from them while in Australia.

In the USA, redbacks are called black widows and they are quite docile. Some people handle them routinely without getting bitten. I prefer not to do that, but when I find one in my garage I just move it away from the house.

I live in a rural part of Thailand and there are lots of snakes. I see them a couple times a month. There are both venomous and non-venomous. Around my home I most often see pythons, golden tree snakes, and rat snakes. There is also the ocaissonal monocled cobra, krait and there was a green pit viper once. They are all beautiful. I usually capture and release them far away from any homes.

I like seeing them, but the presence of venomous snakes are a cause for concern for pets and kids. So when we walk in the garden we try to be noisy and alert.

Snakes are quite common where I live (southwestern USA), and I see more rattlesnakes here than nonvenomous snakes. They will bite if you threaten them, but they absolutely will not bother you if you don't bother them first. That said, they are mainly a problem for people's dogs since dogs instinctively try to attack snakes, and in the case of a rattlesnake bite that results in a very expensive visit to a veterinarian. So I relocate rattlesnakes out into less populated places when my neighbors call me after finding one in their yard.

most snakes are small and harmless. it’s not any worse than seeing a rat or a lizard.

in the US the main snake everyone gets warned about is the coral snake, which has a distinctive pattern and is very poisonous.

The thing about venomous snakes (at least in the US) is that most people think they are WAY more common and have a greater range than they do, largely because so many harmless snakes look like venomous snakes.

I know a lot of people in Kansas/Iowa/Missouri/Nebraska that are sure they've been in cottonmouth/water moccasin-infested areas, but the truth is neither snake actually occurs in those area.

Similarly with Copperheads, although those do occur in a sliver of eastern Kansas and most of Missouri.

Coral snakes only occur in the extreme south and east reaches of the US, but people worry about them everywhere. Probably because the harmless milk snake occurs in most of the US and people don't know the difference.

How about rattlesnakes? I thought there are plenty of them, especially in the Western US.

Kraits can be deadly in India. I've read that sometimes you cannot even feel their bite, but their venom can kill you.


The article reminded me of Romulus Whitaker:




There are rattlesnakes everywhere in areas I've lived all my life. I've never seen a live one. They do not seek human interaction. About the only way you'll get bitten by one is if you reach into a hole one is trying to sleep in such that it can't get away and thinks you're threatening it.

Interesting, thought differently earlier. Good to know.

Copperheads are bad, especially since many other species look like them. They can put you in the hospital. Avoid the triangle head.

A triangular head is a poor indicator of a venomous snake. Many nonvenomous snakes can flatten their heads into a somewhat triangular shape.

The danger of copperheads is greatly overstated. Yes, they are venomous and will bite, but they are very rarely fatal to humans.

I wish that I could remember where I read this, but I recall that a majority of venemous snake bites in the U.S. were on the hand or lower arm, and/or involved alcohol. The implication was that a lot of the time people try to handle the things, especially while drunk.

This seems to reference a similar stat: http://www.reptilesmagazine.com/Reptile-News/2008/07/07/Veno...

True. A copperhead bite definitely requires a hospital visit, but as pit vipers go a copperhead bite is generally on the less dangerous side.

Our family visited the Everglades a few years ago. This is indeed an epidemic to the natural habitat. In fact the guides said that anyone can come by and hunt Python. The biggest threat is to the birds in the area.

I almost thought it was going to be a 2.7 vs 3.x discussion until I saw the cover photo...you got me, OP. Haha.

For it to be a epidemic issue, I'd be expecting two well trained hunters of pythons to catch more than they did "In the first eight days the snake-catching tribesmen removed 13 of the snakes" as not even two a day.

Anybody know the population numbers or the growth rate (the pythons that is) as I'm suspecting that kind of removal rate would only be useful in controlling small area's of land and have little/negligible effect upon the overall population.

Maybe these guys could learn something from these snake hunters from India:


It's surprising there aren't special guns or shot being developed for shooting them.

They should also pass laws to make it a major crime to harbor these creatures. Eg. 5 years min for possession, 20+ for dealing. Probably won’t deter all the morons, but it will work on some.

Just switch to Ruby.

So, finally learned what PEP stands for. It’s Python Elamination Program, which is “not currently accepting new python removal agents” (https://www.sfwmd.gov/our-work/python-program)

I’m mentioning that because that page has a few strong contenders for the “meaningless graph of the year” award. Did you know that the total length of pythons eliminated was over twice the maximum depth of the Grand Canyon or that their weight was less than that of two male African elephants?

So, if you take a male American elephants weight of pythons stupid enough to be hunted and place them head to tail, you can make a rope that allows you to abseil the Grand Canyon.

Surely the tensile strength of python is insufficient for this.

They’re just trying to bring some colour to their report.

Can we lowercase python in the title? This was not the Python I was looking for.

I personally can’t wait for a python language epidemic!

I'd prefer the Julia genus epidemic

I'd prefer the Crystal epidemic

isn't crystal a bit young to be excited ? julia has good genes and just enough maturity to blossom. I shall read about crystal a bit more

The article above this right now on the front page is "Awesome Python" which I found rather humorous in combination with your comment.

For a second I wondered why would you fight such a thing ? Then it hit me...

"There was just whitespace, everywhere, it was... frightening"

“In the middle of the fight, tabs and spaces invaded and war’s brutality took a new turn.”

I was wondering how its runaway success was so well confined within state boundaries... PHP protected by the state constitution in its neighbors?

I thought this was an article about the Mathworks Inc.

This problem looks like could be solved with specialty drones.

Drones with infra-red are already used for using infra-red identification (not bombing the animal, that would be horrible).

But perhaps more tech could help too.

I think the problem too, is incentives. Everglades is a dangerous place...

But sponsored hunts pay little

" Hunters earn $8.10 per hour for up to eight hours daily, $50 bonus for each python measuring up to four feet (plus an extra $25 for each additional foot), and $200 for each eliminated python nest with eggs. "


Finding nests is very hard... Basically one needs to add a tracker to the animal to see where they go.

In general invasive species that kill native species is a problem all over the world...

There should be a well thought out and, most importantly replicatable, corruption-free process how to deal with it (as well as other man-made natural catastrophes).

Dropping poison? A python is a pretty big thing to kill some other way with a drone.

With some duct tape and a machete, you could try to hack together some python to make a drone that tries to hack pythons.

If we're giving in to the whole 'Let's build lethal killer drones' thing, it seems appropriate that it happens in the USA from someone's hacky python project.

Comments like that need a disclaimer - Don't read whilst drinking coffee.

I was thinking more mechanical means. Something that just thrawls and chops pythons.

Also drone != flying. Something terrestrial could do the job. You could also sell it to DoD to repurpose it for jungle warfare.

Heh. I'm curious why there isn't some kind of mechanical trap that works well enough. 12 hours to hunt and catch one snake seems hard.

I misread this post as having 1843 points and was very puzzled for a few minutes...

The solution is really easy. You just need to pay people for each dead python that they bring in.

And problem solved.

I don't understand the downvotes to the GP, he is clearly referring in jest to this.

Thanks for noticing. I'm sorry that you got downvoted for it.

My comment was a test, I wanted to see how it played out. Even with such common knowledge topic, I see that there is not enough "tone" in my comment for people to be able to read its intention.

This is a similar case to Poe's law.

Next time I will try with ";)". I guess that it will clarify the intent of the comment.

So, no fault in the people that did not notice. Next time I will do better.

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe%27s_law

If they can raise a python for less than $50 this will happen.

Probably why this program is only limited to licensed snake hunters and not the general population.

The article addresses this, you should read it.

>For a snake less than 4ft long, like this one, hunters receive $50. Every additional foot in length earns them another $25. On top of that, they get the minimum wage –$8.25 an hour in Florida – for the time they spend on district land.

And..."On average, hunters spend 12 hours searching for each snake they catch"

So, probably better money than driving an Uber, but not by much.

On the upside, you get to spend time outdoors and you get to kill your payload.

As a downside, you get to spend 12 hours in suffocating humidity, get eaten alive by mosquitoes, watch for gators and any of the other native snakes, including the water moccasin.

They did this in India for rats or snakes (can't remember which). To make money, people then started breeding the creatures. :)

They also created greenhouse gasses in India and then destroyed them for carbon credits. [1]

1. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/09/world/asia/incentive-to-s...

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