From rabbits to deer to even bobcats, invasive Burmese pythons appear to be eating through the Everglades’ supply of mammals, new research shows.Since the giant constrictors took hold in Florida in 2000, many previously common mammals have plummeted in number—and some, such as cottontail rabbits, may be totally gone from some areas.
Pythons, an invasive, non-native species, have been let loose in Florida, probably by owners who tired of them. The climate is conducive to their survival and reproduction, so they have emerged as a threat to many native species of Florida’s animals.
Indigenous animals are adapted to the local predators, but the introduction of this exotic snake has wreaked havoc on the ecosystem. Many mammals seem to have disappeared from the local fauna, and others have declined precipitously.
Raccoon observations dropped by 99.3 percent, opossum by 98.9 percent, and bobcat by 87.5 percent. The scientists saw no rabbits or foxes at all during their surveys.
At some point a new balance point will be reached – without food, pythons will die off, which will allow some species to rebound. But the ecosystem is altered.
“We have taken strong action to battle the spread of the Burmese python and other nonnative species that threaten the Everglades and other areas across the United States,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in a statement.
“There’s no single solution to this conservation challenge, but banning the importation and interstate transport of these invasive snakes is a critical step.”
Invasive species are changing ecosystems around the world, What will the future hold? How will the indigenous species cope with invaders? Only science and time will tell.