Many people were shocked to hear about large numbers of pythons loose in the Everglades. I wasn’t one of them. In my opinion, hurricane Andrew was only one catalyst for the large serpents escaping into the wild. Having been an amateur herpetologist and reptile breeder for the better part of 30 years, I spent many a weekend at reptile shows. What I saw on many of those occasions was very disturbing. I saw reptile breeders that were more interested in chasing the all-mighty dollar than showing a moral obligation selling baby Burmese Pythons to children as young as 10 or 12 years old without their parents around to make the judgment call. This practice could only make the situation with exotic species loose in Florida worse. These kids just had no idea what to expect in about 2 to 4 years when their Burmese would reach an impressive size and weight. And with all of the Burmese flooding the market due to the relative ease of breeding this species, no one would want to take them off their hands, not even zoos that already had plenty of Burmese or decided the species was too common to attract interest. This would give the parents of these kids no option but to release the snakes or have to explain to their kids why their pet snake would need to be euthanized, which is something no parent would want to do to their kids.
Even worse is the fact that now two additional species are being found in the Everglades, the Reticulated and African Rock pythons. These two species are far more dangerous than your average Burmese. I have kept all three species, and while I would never completely trust any python, the Burmese was by far the more predictable to the large species that I kept. But these other two species make the Burmese look as gentle as a kitten. The Reticulated Python is the longest snake on the planet reaching confirmed lengths approaching 30 feet and the African Rock python can easily get over 20 feet with a body girth similar to a large Burmese. Both of these snakes would have no problem making a meal out of a small child or even a small adult once they reach 7 meters in length. Not to mention the destruction they will dish out to the local indigenous wildlife. Even a large alligator would have trouble dispatching a 7 meter python and probably would die trying.
Even more disturbing are the estimates of the numbers of pythons loose in Florida, which appears to be growing exponentially each year. Considering a large python can lay as many as a hundred eggs, it would not take long for the numbers to climb. Some estimates that I have seen put as many as 100,000 of these snakes in the Everglades. While this may seem high, you have to remember that they will not have a natural predator hear. Our only hope was a long cold spell, but knowing how these snakes love the water and love to hide in burrows under ground, both of these environments offer protection from the cold and like I suspected, recent reports appear to have validated my suspicion since nearly the same number of pythons are being caught now as were before the cold spell. Once the pythons take hold and a large breeding population becomes established, there is almost nothing that we can do to reverse the situation. And I think it is already too late.