No exaggeration: U.S. Geological Survey's biologists have just published a report detailing the ecological risks of nine species of giant non-native boas, anacondas and pythons in the United States. Already Burmese pythons are reproducing in the wilds and no-so-wilds of South Florida, with an estimated population now in the tens of thousands. But things could get a lot worse. There's even this tidbit about threats to humans in the press release:
"Based on the biology and known natural history of the giant constrictors, individuals of some species may also pose a small risk to people, although most snakes would not be large enough to consider a person as suitable prey. Mature individuals of the largest species-Burmese, reticulated, and northern and southern African pythons-have been documented as attacking and killing people in the wild in their native range, though such unprovoked attacks appear to be quite rare, the report authors wrote. The snake most associated with unprovoked human fatalities in the wild is the reticulated python. The situation with human risk is similar to that experienced with alligators: attacks in the wild are improbable but possible." (More on this matter in a snake quiz I put together a while back.)
More significant, really, is that the report's coauthor Robert Reed had to say: "This report clearly reveals that these giant snakes threaten to destabilize some of our most precious ecosystems and parks, primarily through predation on vulnerable native species."
You may be thinking: "I don't see the problem. I don't live in South Florida and that's all going to be underwater anyway, what with sea level rising. So problem solved."
Nope. Last year there was another study comparing how climate change will make more parts of the US more like the native ranges of these snakes, possibly extending the threats to California and New Jersey. Yikes. Get the USGS press release and the full new report here.
Image Credit: Lori Oberhofer, National Park Service