Sarasota News Leader

03/08/2013

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Sarasota News Leader March 8, 2013 Page 46 ida law, these animals cannot be legally possessed by individuals. Persons who owned these exotic pets before the law went into effect are now obliged to maintain a valid annual license for these animals, to have an electronic identity chip implanted in them and to care faithfully for them for the duration of the animals' natural lives. tered hunters from 38 states and Canada had to be qualified by FWC in order to participate. around the state on a frequent basis. Some scientists regard Lowman's projection as vulnerable to challenge. Dr. Kenneth Krysko, the highly respected herpetologist and senior biological scientist at the University of Florida's Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, wrote in a recent email that "although there is evidence that Burmese Pythons have expanded their range from Everglades National Park northward to at least Lake Okeechobee, it is highly unlikely that there will be 1,500 pythons in Sarasota within two years. There have been multiple pythons removed from Myakka over the last decade, but we believe that these were independent illegally released animals unassociated with the northern range expansion of Everglades pythons. Only time will tell if pythons can become established in Sarasota." HOW FAR NORTH? Of particular concern to environmentalists is the prospect that the Burmese pythons will steadily migrate northward from the Everglades, acclimatizing themselves as they move Foster placement is the greatly preferred into the more temperate environment of Sarasolution for establishing new homes for ex- sota County, where they could establish new otic pets that, for whatever reason, have be- breeding colonies. come too difficult or costly for their owners to In 2008, then New College Professor Meg Lowcontinue to care for. Under no circumstances man, extrapolating from data compiled by her should any "conditional species" be released students to create a mathematical model, estito wander freely through the neighborhood mated that by 2015, a breeding colony of 1,500 or the wilds of, say, Myakka River State Park. Burmese pythons will have been established Missed the March 2 Amnesty Day? No prob- permanently in Myakka River State Park. This lem. There is another in Miami at the end of assumes, of course, that no preventative meaMarch. Please consult the FWC's information sures will have been taken in the meantime by on Exotic Pets Amnesty Day events. Amnes- the state and county agencies charged with ty Day events are held in different locations controlling these snakes. The Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus) poses an especially serious threat to native Florida wildlife, as it has no natural predator and preys indiscriminately on several native Florida species. First sighted in Everglades National Park in 1979, this python's population is estimated today at as many as 100,000. Importation of these snakes into the U.S. has recently been banned by federal law. During the 2013 Python Challenge, which was held from Jan. 12 to Feb. 10, a total of 68 Burmese pythons were "harvested" from Everglades National Park and three other sites. Given the snake's stealthiness, most herpetologists concur that 68 kills is indeed an impressive number. The approximately 1,600 regis-

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