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The Invasion of Giant Pythons Threatening Florida (smithsonianmag.com)
62 points by 80mph 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 58 comments

I was involved in management of a small natural preserve. One of the activities was to control some of the more pestilential invasive species, such as Oriental bittersweet. But without a huge expensive effort, invasives really can't be eradicated or even very well controlled. I'd estimate that upwards of a fourth of the plant mass was invasive species, from allianthus to wisteria.

In the end, I decided it didn't really matter - that these new species were simply doing what all organisms do, which is to compete to survive and reproduce. The fact that they are doing so in a new ecological setting is just what evolution predicts.

Interesting point. Outside/In Radio has a few episodes you might like, one series on trying to turn invasive species into culinary delicacies, to put pressure back on those populations:


Also, I found thought provoking this discussion of how some species are generalists, and some are specialists, and how Turkey vultures will probably inherit the Earth:


Americans don't seem to be particularly fond of eating unfamiliar animals. Convince the Chinese that a certain species is good for health or improves vigor, on the other hand, and the species in question will become virtually extinct in no time. See rhino horns and shark's fins.

A little care could have made this statement seem less.. inconsiderate.

I thought about that for a minute before I hit "reply", but decided "fuck it." Why try to sugarcoat an ecologically disastrous cultural practice in the name of sensitivity? Besides, ethnically I'm much closer to Chinese than American if that adds any context.

pvaldes 7 months ago [flagged]

> I was involved in management of a small natural preserve... In the end, I decided it [management of a small natural preserve] didn't really matter

Therefore you shouldn't be doing this job. Is as simple as that

Please don't cross into personal attack in HN comments. That's not why we're here.


How is that comment a personal attack? I don't see any references, critical or otherwise, made to Merrill's motives or character.

Is a comment, not a personal attack, and is a justified one. There is a really insidious, and difficult to fight, trend with alien species that many people repeat again and again. That the correct way to manage alien species is 1) delaying the action as many as you can 2) letting the problem rot 3) building a narrative that will comfort you for 4) accepting the new situation.

I had seen this "algorithm" dozens of times before

This is plain wrong and it must be repeated more. Please don't spread such ideas. Alien species are a problem both environmental and also economical of first order

After concluding that "management" and "natural" were a contradiction in terms, I resigned.

There is nothing natural in invasive species. Doing nothing to stop them to take all the reserve, would be like a museum curator welcoming termites, insects or fungus as a natural part of valuable antiquities and oil paintings.

This subverts totally the main reason for having this nature preserve, saving rare and valuable ecosystems (instead using the space for another cornfield).

"...and their ability to extend their windpipe, snorkel-like, outside their mouths, so they can breathe while their mouths are entirely occupied with swallowing"

this is a pretty incredible fact about pythons!

I'm dreaming of a remote game where players fly a fleet of drones to go hunt for pythons in the everglades.

This is close to reality for wild boars, but due to how sneaky pythons are - prob not really practical.

Source please. I know there's a ton of late night hunts with infrared scopes where people snipe boars, but that's in person. Plenty of such content on YouTube. Is there a remote version of the hunt going on someplace?

Just search for boar drone hunt and you’ll see plenty of examples.

An infrared camera drone with AI should be able to identify giant pythons and other invasive species. Someone make it.

The same drone can also capture or kill snakes. Poisoned mice have already been used to kill invasive snake species, so the drone can drop those. On-board weaponry would be more efficient, but I’d get chills systematically erasing anything using a swarm of killer drones....

The risk of off-target killing should also be considered. A semi-autonomous solution would have the drone beam footage of the snake and await a kill order from Florida man. Yikes.

Had to scroll farther than I expected to find a Florida Man reference.

How do infrared cameras do with cold blooded animals?

Cold blooded doesn't mean that they are in environment temperature. The larger the animal, the hotter it tends to be, and the better infrared cameras do.

I was wondering that myself. Looks like they can resolve...


There was a programme where they got the Irula tribe (with help from the reptile man - Rom Whitaker[2]) from India to trap the pythons, which was touted to be a success as well[1]. Not sure what happened to it?

[1] https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article12... [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romulus_Whitaker

Does not seem like it was remotely successful. From [1] - "Probably the most audacious effort came last year when two renowned snake catchers from India’s mountain-dwelling Irula tribe chanted their way across the Everglades for two months. They bagged 33 pythons. But that figure, like the 1,000-plus snakes killed to date in civilian hunting programmes, is a drop in the ocean."

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/aug/25/snakes-flori...

My wife and I have just done a great little tour of an eastern part of the Everglades from Gator Park, and the airboat captain talked about the python problem.

There were audible gasps when he mentioned that it’s thought the pythons are responsible for a 90% reduction in indigenous species over the past 20 years.

When I asked him what they’re doing about the problem, he didn’t seem to know much, so this article is both very timely and hugely enlightening!

It also suggests that this topic needs a lot more awareness.

Are they edible?

I'll answer my own question: https://www.outsideonline.com/1794941/florida-officals-dont-...

No, no you can't because Burmese pythons have a very high mercury content.

Wow. Yeah, don’t eat those:

“For some reason, the pythons that are coming out of here, they have mercury concentrations higher than mine waste, a mercury mine,” said Everglades superintendent Dan Kimball. “According to (USGS scientist Dave Krabbenhoft), they’ve never found anything that has this high of mercury levels that’s still alive. It is amazing.”

Sounds like a great way to collect Mercury in your local neighborhood

I wonder where its all coming from. Just bio-accumulation? But yeah sounds like a nice way to remove some mercury from your local ecosystem. Then sell it as "snake silver" to esoterically leaning folks.

Nice business idea! Now the only thing we need are some giant pythons...

I wonder what they are eating.

In addition, you can't eat the suckers because they accumulate mercury!


So what will happen is a new ecological balance will develop.

The snakes will hit the limit of their expansion.

The prey animals will develop ways to avoid the snakes.

The area will be forever changed, but just as alive as it was.

But not really because people will keep changing things at a pace greater than natural selection and evolution.


This will in turn evolve a fauna that is well adapted to change.

I read this article in the magazine, and towards the end, there is a mention of two Pythons found alive in the Gulf of Mexico, at least 5 miles from shore.

I may be misunderstanding something you’re saying, but this is also in the online article...

I did not read the online article, so I did not want to assume the content was identical.

Regardless, pythons living in saltwater off the coast of Florida, has been added to my list of fears.

I think this is how Florida wanted to go. Its its time.

this seems like an interesting project for genetic engineering - to create pythons which breed only sterile pythons...?

unleash the robots. Otherwise it's impossible, they reproduce like there's no tomorrow and they have no natural predators. Anything that harms them probably ruins the environment for others

pip uninstall Florida

apt-get remove python

Just install anaconda. What could go wrong?

floridaman -R python

Who would win? A hundred giant pythons or 1 Florida Man?

I think even one on one, a sufficiently large constrictor could take down (asphyxiate, if not eat) a full sized floridian. But that's not accounting for tool use, which changes the matter completely.

The Burmese pythons in the 'glades have been known to eat alligators.

If you've never seen a large constrictor grab prey it's easy to dismiss them as slow and easily avoidable. But these strike with incredible speed, and can wrap themselves completely around their prey in a second or two. Then the squeezing starts... A knife or a gun is only helpful if you can reach it and use it quickly enough.

But, when not hungry, especially if digesting a large meal, they tend to hide, don't really move and are pretty much harmless.

So it really depends if the snake is in hunting mode or not.

The trick is to not look like food.

One should not underestimate Florida Man :-)

Not least because underestimating is so very much more difficult than overestimating him.

I'm betting on Florida.

Attach small bombs designed to go off only when squeezed or digested to rabbits and set them loose. (Include radio trackers.)

There have been many reports of bloat recently in Python. Now we have hard evidence.

I dislike the title of this post which is different from the title of the article it links to. Pythons are not evil and they are not good, and a python definitely doesn't invade anything.

A bunch of morones with more money then sense and an infantile itch to scratch, decided that importing predators from a different continent is s good idea and now the state of Florida is facing the consequences. Not a snappy headline, but this is what this is.

<title>The Invasion of Giant Pythons Threatening Florida | Science | Smithsonian</title>

You're mistaken. The top heading differs from the title, but that's not unusual.

Or maybe they're just using terminology that has been used for hundreds of years to talk about invasive species.

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