January 31, 2012
Pythons Wiping Out Everglades Animals
It is a mistake to allow import of animals that have the potential to wipe out lots of species. Pythons are making major in-roads in south Florida.
When researchers struck out to count animals along a main road that runs to the southernmost tip of the park, more than 99 percent of raccoons were gone, along with nearly the same percentage of opossums and about 88 percent of bobcats. Marsh and cottontail rabbits, as well as foxes, could not be found.
Look at the Asian carp spreading up and down the Mississippi and tributary rivers. That's an even bigger mistake in my view.
I am curious to know whether in a few decades cheap and very cheap electronic monitoring systems will make it possible to wipe out some of the invasive species. If we can just watch a large area at a fine enough level of granularity then it might become possible to track down every member of an invading species and wipe it out even if it is well concealed most of the time.
Jonah Goldberg is on the case:
ďThe Hell, I say: We nearly wiped out the buffalo in this country because a bunch of guys made money off of buffalo hides. Thousands of years before that, mankind eradicated the woolly mammoth with spears. Spears! Give me five thousand Ted Nugent fans and all the weapons they can carry and the waters of the everglades will run red with Burmese snake blood.
Ö But, are you telling me that during a time when unemployment is outrageously high, the government canít put a bounty on snakes and get results? I donít know what the right number is but for the sake of argument if we had a hunting season in which you could bring in unlimited number of Burmese pythons for $50 per pound, my hunch is Burmese pythons would be erecting memorials to the great snake genocide of 2012.
$50/lbs. is probably way too high. Those things are big. $0.50/lbs. is probably more like it.
Goldberg's hunt for a government support misses a much easier pov -- invasive species are delicious. Just make it permanent open season on pythons, asian carp, zebra mussels, and this problem will solve itself.
The python is acting as a top predator.
Stuff like bamboo is at the base, and the effects over time will be even more profound.
Invasive bamboo is a terrible problem. Nothing much eats it, and it out-competes many native species even without the advantage of being non-edible. Thus it heavily alters the base of the food chain, makes the carbon productivity essentially unavailable to higher native species that depend on the natural mix of plants. Just walk the banks of any Piedmont North Carolina creek. Look and listen.
If you are interested to see how hard it is to eradicate invasive species (and how destructive they can be), use the search terms "MacQuarie Island - cats - rodents - rabbits" in your browser. You will discover an incredible and sustained effort by NZ. (Well done, gentlemen!) And remind yourself that this is what it took in a small, isolated ecosystem.
Sorry to say, the Everglades are forever altered, and not for the better.
In reply to poster "Fat Man", I read Goldberg's article. Waste of time.
Did I say NZ, as in New Zealand? Whoops! It's an Australian effort on MacQuarie.
In order to put an electronic homing device on a snake, first you must catch it (might as well kill it then). Putting the tracker on a prey animal? Maybe, but I recall a story about a gator being killed with many coon dog tracking collars in it's stomach. Hunters looking for their dogs who found a gator instead, would not need to have the situation explained, and would not allow the gator to survive. Sooooo, the idea might have merit, but it needs checking to see if there's a reason the hunters could not find their dogs.
For something as large as a python, in an area that is at least moderately accessible, Goldberg's idea would work pretty well. It's certainly not a cureall for invasive species generally, though. Asian carp and zebra mussels - probably not. Likewise brown snakes in Guam or rats in any number of south seas islands (to say nothing of mosquitos in Hawaii)... not enough people and the animals are hard to find. Of course a large enough amount of money might still do the trick. If the bounty is big enough that people will travel from other places to collect it, or that someone can earn a comfortable living off of it as a hunter, then it's a whole different story.
It requires that the incentive isn't big enough that people start to breed them
Just set a minimum size that makes it uneconomical to raise them (but still below the size for first breeding).
Yes, some incentives to kill the pythons would work wonders I think. We need contests for Python killing too. How many pythons can your team find in 24 hours? Could be a reality TV show.
I doubt there are limits on python hunting.
If we can find better ways to detect the pythons then hunting them at least to keep their numbers way down might work. Finding highly targeted toxins might help too.
I wonder whether dogs could be trained to detect their scent. Imagine water dogs and hunting guys trudging across the Everglades hunting down Pythons.
Also, how about chemical birth control put in things they eat?
A python on birth control (lasting how long?) is still eating all kinds of wildlife.
You need a way to lure them to a place where they can be killed. Animatronic prey watched by vision systems which can distinguish snakes, and kills them with poison or electricity?
Given a few years of biotech research, we should be able to develop a virus that selectively infects snakes but not alligators. Then spray like crazy.
I think creating fake prey is a cool idea. Imagine we could make large amounts of cheap fake prey. Then let the Python try to eat it and die from a poison or other means.
I think the public at large would be reluctant to allow a selective virus to be deployed. Also, there's the risk of someone transporting that virus to the python's original habitat.
The everglades have also native snakes. You don't want to kill them.
Breeding is not the only problem. Creating a reservation for them by the hunters is also a problem when you try to eradicate them by offering a reward
The native Floridian snakes aren't big enough to take deer, and wouldn't attack an animatronic deer. Vision systems can probably distinguish species as well.