Study: Invasive Pythons Obliterating Mammal Populations in Everglades

A new study has found that native mammal populations in the Florida Everglades are--literally--being wiped out by invasive Burmese pythons.

From this AP story in the San Francisco Chronicle:
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A burgeoning population of huge pythons - many of them pets that were turned loose by their owners when they became too big - appears to be wiping out raccoons, opossums, bobcats and other mammals in the Everglades, a study found. The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that sightings of medium-size mammals are down dramatically - as much as 99 percent, in some cases - in areas where pythons and other large, nonnative constrictor snakes are known to be lurking._

Scientists fear the pythons could disrupt the food chain and upset the Everglades' environmental balance in ways difficult to predict. "The effects of declining mammal populations on the overall Everglades ecosystem, which extends well beyond the national park boundaries, are likely profound," said John Willson, a scientist at Virginia Tech University and co-author of the study. Tens of thousands of Burmese pythons, which are native to Southeast Asia, are believed to be living in the Everglades, where they thrive in the warm, humid climate. While many were apparently released by their owners, others may have escaped from pet shops during Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

How badly have mammals in the Everglades been affected? The study found that 99 percent of raccoons and opossums in the study area were gone, 88 percent of the bobcats, while foxes and rabbits couldn't be found at all. Tens of thousands of the invasive pythons are thought to inhabit south Florida. Last year, about this time I joked that Florida's big snakes offered a unique hunting opportunity but this study gives dramatic confirmation that invasive snakes are no laughing matter.

Is there any way to control these things, or do you think it's only going to get worse as the snakes increase their range?