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Nature | Invasion of the Giant Pythons

Predatory pythons have thrived in the protected wilderness of Everglades National Park.

Nature investigates Everglades’ serpent menace in Invasion of the Giant Pythons

Watch Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 8pm on WMHT TV

Florida’s Everglades National Park is one of America’s last great wildlife refuges, home to unique and endangered animals and plants, as well as untold number of iconic alligators.  However, the park has also become a dumping ground for nonnative species.  There are possibly tens of thousands of Burmese pythons now living in the Everglades, some of which were intentionally released by pet owners, and others were unintentionally set free by storms when hurricanes hit Florida’s animal warehouses.  The Everglades are similar to their native Asian habitat, and the predatory snakes have moved in to their new home with a vengeance.  They are thriving in the protected wilderness the park offers, disrupting its delicate ecosystem in the process.  Nature follows scientists and snake hunters as they study the problem and try to find solutions to the growing crisis. Academy Award-winning actor F. Murray Abraham narrates.

“This film is a sobering look at the impact on our vanishing wilderness caused by exotic pets gone awry,” said Fred Kaufman, Series Executive Producer.  “Not many pet owners are prepared to care for their baby pythons once they double in size in one year.  Just goes to show that these magnificent animals belong in the wild and not at home.”

The film takes viewers on a “snake patrol” set up to hunt down and capture members of the growing army of pythons.  Audiences also meet scientists who are learning everything they can about the Everglades pythons, working on strategies to protect the park, its native residents, and surrounding habitats from the snakes.   A python can grow to 250 pounds and stretch over 23 feet, making it powerful enough to strangle and eat an entire alligator.  But they will eat almost any animal out there, no matter how big or small, from rodents to adult deer, bobcats, birds, and other snakes.  Native species are hard pressed to compete.  And a special effort is being made to keep pythons from reaching areas with endangered species. 

To help in the fight against the invasive constrictors, and in an effort to curtail illegal release of pets in the wild in general, Miami Metro Zoo hosts a Pet Amnesty Day to collect and place unwanted exotic species in new homes.  It may seem a small measure against such daunting task, but it gets the word out.  Only time will tell what the future of pythons in the Everglades will be.  Will they become the next top tourist attraction?  The alligators may need to start watching their backs.  

Visit Nature Online (pbs.org/nature) to watch previous programs and get updates about the series.  Viewers can sound off about issues explored on Nature, take polls, and share animal photos with the Nature community.

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