“A bunny just hopped by outside my window,” I told my friend during our periodic phone conversation. Since I was in Phoenix and she was in Miami, phone conversations had to suffice until we could visit in person.
“Lucky you,” she said. “The pythons have eaten all our local critters down here.”
Pythons have caused a huge problem in the Everglades in recent years, and, according to the Python Elimination Program, “The South Florida Water Management District Governing Board is taking aggressive action to protect the Everglades and eliminate invasive pythons from its public lands.”
As a non-native and invasive species, pythons have posed threats to native wildlife, as well as to humans. As my friend related, many small native mammals, reptiles, and birds have been impacted by these predators, not to mention that native predators have been deprived of their prey.
“Starting in March 2017,” states the South Florida Water Management District, “the Python Elimination Program incentivizes a limited number of public-spirited individuals to humanely euthanize these destructive snakes, which have become an apex predator in the Everglades.” At this point, the program appears to have had enough responders that they are no longer accepting new removal agents.
Although we continue to promote understanding and acceptance of snakes as a misunderstood species, we agree with and understand the reasons for eliminating these large species that were inadvertently released into a habitat similar to their own, and we appreciate the fact that they are being “humanely euthanized.”
But what about feral cats? There is now a movement afoot to capture feral cats and spay or neuter them before returning them to their “exact” location of capture to live out their lives. While we love cats, as well as dogs, a feral cat is no less an invasive species than the Florida pythons, as they attack birds and other species, spread harmful diseases, and defecate and urinate in public areas, leaving foul odors.
Furry critters that we consider cute pull at our heartstrings, and consequently we are reluctant to euthanize them whenever possible. But when it comes to “nasty” snakes, we have no compunction in killing them – and rightly so in the case of invasive pythons in Florida.
Neutered or not, cute or not, an invasive species can create much damage. If we can euthanize one non-native, invasive species, it seems to make sense to euthanize others, as well. Releasing them rather than disposing of them allows them to continue their destructive habits.