Oh sure, you’ve heard all the dismal talk about global warming: The melting ice caps, the weakened penguins, the coastal flooding, the plagues and crop failures.
But what about the snakes? A recent study by the U.S. Geological Service seems to suggest that Burmese pythons, an exotic species hitherto confined to Florida, might one day be able to survive winters in much of the country. According to maps included in a Feb. 20 release by the agency, due to climate change, parts of Western North Carolina may be hospitable to these humongous constrictors by century’s end.
Beyond the abject terror involved in one day seeing a python on your porch, there are more far-reaching reasons to worry about the reptile’s territorial expansion. “Wildlife managers are concerned that these snakes, which can grow to over 20 feet long and more than 250 pounds, pose a danger to state and federally listed threatened and endangered species as well as to humans,” says Bob Reed, a USGS wildlife biologist who helped develop the maps. “Several endangered species,” Reed adds, “have already been found in the snakes’ stomachs. Pythons could have even more significant environmental and economic consequences if they were to spread from Florida to other states.” In addition to their reproducing populations in the South, pet pythons are occasionally dumped into the wilds by negligent owners.
The story also appears in the print version of today’s Asheville Citizen-Times
— Kent Priestley, staff writer