A couple of long-disused buildings in the Florida Keys that once sheltered servicemen from missile launches have been sheltering something else – pythons.
Four large crawlers – one, a female, was nearly 16 feet long – turned up within the last month at an old missile base at Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) reported.
Scientists think the snakes migrated from the Everglades, a fertile breeding ground for the unwanted predators. Now, officials say, the snakes may be poised to head south, where several Keys species are defenseless against the large, invasive reptiles.
Compounding their concerns: Officials this past summer also discovered some hatchling pythons near Key Largo – a strong indication that the snakes have found a welcome habitat and are multiplying.
The latest unwanted snakes turned up in a couple of old bunkers where the U.S. military once had a Nike Hercules missile firing range. The site, closed 30 years ago, is now part of the 6,500-acre Crocodile Lake refuge. Searchers using trackers and specially trained dogs sniffed out the snakes, said Jeremy Dixon, who manages Crocodile Lake.
“Snakes like deep, dark places,” he said.
They also like black rats, which likely attracted them to the site, Dixon said. The area also is home to hundreds of feral cats, another potential food source.
The easy availability of food, said Dixon, means the pythons could thrive on the Keys just as easily as they have multiplied in the Everglades. For more than two decades, an array of big snakes have spread and bred in the Everglades. Their presence has had a devastating effect on native birds, deer and other species in the park. Some snakes have even managed to devour alligators.
The Florida Wildlife Fish and Wildlife Commission is working with the University of Florida to detect and remove the snakes in the Keys. They are partnering with the Irulas, members of a tribal community from India that’s renowned for its ability to catch snakes. Learn more about those programs.
If you need to report a python, dial the Exotic Species Reporting Hotline: 888-Ive-Got1 (888-483-4681).
Steve Irwin meets David Attenborough in this jaw-dropping account of studying the world’s most venomous creatures. Venom Doc The Edgiest, Darkest, Strangest Natural History Memoir Ever By Bryan Grieg Fry
Praise on behalf of Venom Doc
“Venom Doc is jam-packed with wildly entertaining behind-the-scenes stories of how Bryan became an expert on venom and the trials and tribulations of a life in science. Brilliant, flamboyant, and sometimes controversial . . . This book is thrilling and thought-provoking!” —Nigel Marven, BBC television host
“If you’re a fan of the animals most love to loathe, then this book is definitely for you.” —Discover magazine
“If the first two rules of writing one’s memoirs are to live a remarkable life and to relate its anecdotes in an interesting, entertaining way, then Bryan Fry's Venom Doc nails it on both counts.” —Ray Morgan, The Venom Interviews
A One-of-a-Kind Tale of a Man’s Passion for Poison
Venomologist Bryan Grieg Fry has one of the most dangerous jobs on earth: he works with its deadliest creatures. He’s been bitten by twenty-six poisonous snakes, stung by three stingrays, and survived a near-fatal scorpion sting while deep in the Amazon jungle. He’s also broken twenty-three bones, including his back in three places, and had to learn how to walk again. But when you research only the venom you yourself have collected, the adventures—and dangers—never stop. Imagine a three-week-long first date in Siberia catching venomous water shrews; a wedding attended by Eastern European prime ministers with their machine-gun-wielding bodyguards and snakes; or leading a team to Antarctica that results in the discovery of four new species of venomous octopi. With an insatiable appetite for venom, Bryan has traveled the world collecting samples. He’s encountered poisonous creatures of all kinds, including the Malaysian king cobra, the Komodo dragon, and the brush-footed trapdoor spider. He recounts his lifelong passion for studying the world’s most venomous creatures in this outlandish, captivating memoir, where he and danger are never far apart. Venom Doc: The Edgiest, Darkest, Strangest Natural History Memoir Ever (Arcade Publishing; October 2016) is a one-of-a-kind tale of a man’s passion for poison. Fry is a doctor, writer, documentary and TV personality, and professor at the Venomics Laboratory at the University of Queensland. Originally published in Australia, this is Venom Doc’s North American debut, and it will be many readers’ first exposure to Fry. Prepare to follow his colorful journeys into remote corners of the world where he searches for venom that has led to medical cures and scientific breakthroughs. Fry experienced an Icarus-like crash when he sustained a near-career-ending injury, breaking his back. While stuck in a hospital for four months, and during his long recovery, Fry thought up this book as a self-help exercise. The result is a wild, sometimes zany, gripping, and surprisingly inspiring read. Anyone who loves adventures, big personalities, animals, and moving stories will adore the fiercely exciting ride that is Fry’s memoir Venom Doc.
About the Author: Bryan Grieg Fry was born in 1970 to a Norwegian mother and an American father and educated in the United States, attending Portland State University before pursuing a PhD in Australia at the University of Queensland’s Centre for Drug Design and Development. His papers and articles have been published widely in academic journals and in the trade media, including Wired, Cosmos, and National Geographic, and he has appeared in documentaries and television programs. He also is the author of Venomous Reptiles and Their Toxins (Oxford University Press). He is associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Queensland where he is group leader of the Venomics Laboratory. He resides in Queensland, Australia.
Venom Doc The Edgiest, Darkest, Strangest Natural History Memoir Ever By Bryan Grieg Fry | Arcade Publishing hardcover, also available as an ebook On Sale: October 4, 2016 ISBN: 978-1-62872-699-2 Price: $24.99
Additional Praise for Venom Doc:
"Ask Bryan Grieg Fry what he does for a living, and you're suddenly thrown into a strange world full of venom and danger. In Venom Doc, Fry takes readers on a gripping tour of that world, showing why the dangerous creatures he spends his life with are also among the most fascinating."—Carl Zimmer, author of Parasite Rex
"A pioneering scientist of the topmost caliber” —Sean P. Bush, MD, FACEP, Professor of Emergency Medicine, with Tenure, East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine "Venom Doc is a rollercoaster ride. . . . Venom Doc offers a no-holds barred account of his life journey and transformation, interspersed with near-death experiences, euphoric highs and reflections on his own mortality. . . . Throughout, Bryan offers his scientific insight into the creatures he studies and the elixir he ultimately craves—venom." —Dr. Nick Casewell, Senior Lecturer at the Alistair Reid Venom Research Unit, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
“A wild acid-soaked synthesis of Hunter S. Thompson and Gerald Durrell . . .”—Dr. Steve Backshall, BAFTA-winning naturalist, writer, and television presenter for Discovery Channel and National Geographic
“Exotic animals may seem fun and like extravagant, novel gifts, but there are tremendous risks involved.” - Born Free USA’s CEO
Washington, D.C., November 28, 2016 -- With the holiday shopping and gift-giving season upon us, Born Free USA, a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, wants to remind everyone about the serious dangers of giving a live animal as a pet. In particular, the purchase of exotic animals as gifts is a concerning phenomenon. As revealed in last month’s report from Born Free USA, Downloading Cruelty: An Investigation into the Online Sales of Exotic Pets in the U.S., there is a widespread online trade of exotic animals as “pets," including monkeys, lions, tigers, cheetahs, wolves, kangaroos, foxes, snakes, sloths, and more. All of these animals can be available with just one click online, making them far too easy to bring home this holiday season.
According to Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, “Exotic animals may seem like fun, extravagant, and novel gifts, but the reality is that they have tremendously complex needs that require extensive care and commitment. While it is incredibly easy to buy a snake, sugar glider, or fox online, that does not mean that it will be easy to have that animal in your home. Despite claims made by exotic animal breeders, not one of these animals is “tame.” Purchasing an exotic animal as a holiday present perpetuates the abusive circumstances of breeding and captivity, and puts people at risk by exposing them to a wild animal who belongs IN the wild.”
As demonstrated in the Downloading Cruelty report, the enormous popularity of internet shopping has significant repercussions for the trade in exotic animals as pets, because animals who were never offered at a pet store are now visible and available from breeders around the country. The ease of acquiring them over the internet parallels the continuously-growing demand. Since the buyer cannot see the animal beyond a photo, and the shipping and payment options make the purchase simple and fast, the buyer is unlikely to have taken into account or understand the long-term care implications.
Roberts added, “An exotic animal is one of the most dangerous gifts you could give someone. There have been hundreds of attacks on humans that demonstrate the severe threat they pose, and they can also transmit serious and potentially deadly diseases to humans, including salmonella and hepatitis. Protect both animals and your loved ones, and don’t give the present of a monkey, a snake, a turtle, or any other living creature this holiday season. “
Born Free USA is a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation, and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic "pets," trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to America the message of "compassionate conservation": the vision of the U.K.-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film Born Free, along with their son, Will Travers. Born Free's mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally. More at www.bornfreeusa.org, www.twitter.com/bornfreeusa, and www.facebook.com/bornfreeusa.
For the complete report and more, go to www.bornfreeusa.org/DownloadingCruelty.
TUCSON, Ariz., March 8, 2016 – Advocates for Snake Preservation (ASP), a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the way people view and treat snakes, today kicked off a formal campaign against the capture and slaughter of rattlesnakes for roundups held in the U.S. South and Southwest.
At these annual festivals, wild rattlesnakes are rounded up by the thousands to be displayed and slaughtered in public spectacles, then rendered into novelty meat, trinkets and folk medicine. ASP and photojournalist Jo-Anne McArthur documented the animal cruelty, suffering, and fear underneath these events promoted as folksy, family-friendly fun. To battle fearmongering and pseudoscience, ASP is leading a group of biologists and conservationists in opposition to roundups.
For photos and videos please see www.rattlesnakeroundups.com.
“At these events it’s common to see snakes swollen and bloody from being restrained or thrown by handlers, dead and dying snakes, snakes too weak or stressed to defend themselves, unsanitary conditions, cruelty, and dangers to the public,” said Melissa Amarello, cofounder and director of education for ASP and an expert in rattlesnake social behavior. “Rattlesnakes rattle when they are terrified, not angry or preparing to attack as many think. The sound of rattling at these roundups is in fact a thousand snakes screaming.”
Roundups primarily target western diamondback rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox) and eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus). Professional hunters, not bound by ‘bag’ or ‘take’ limits, remove snakes from their native habitats and are awarded with cash prizes for bringing in the most and biggest snakes. Most snakes are caught by pouring gasoline into their winter dens, which pollutes surrounding land and water and may impact up to 350 other wildlife species. After capture, snakes are crowded together without food or water for weeks or even months.
In Sweetwater, Texas, home of the Sweetwater Jaycee's World's Largest Rattlesnake Round-Up, audiences watch myth-riddled presentations that demonstrate unsafe handling techniques. Snakes are shot in the head with a bolt gun, decapitated by machete, skinned, and gutted. Their disembodied heads continue gasping, hearts beating, and skinless bodies writhing, long afterward — decapitation is neither a rapid nor humane method of killing reptiles.
Proponents of roundups say they prevent overpopulation and protect people and cattle from death by snakebite. However, there are fewer than five deaths in the U.S. from snakebites annually, including people who refuse treatment, and the USDA’s Cattle Death Loss report has logged no cattle deaths from snakes. Paradoxically, proponents maintain roundups have no effect on local snake populations, making it something of a mystery how they can also alleviate overpopulation.
Science does not support claims that roundups are required to prevent rattlesnake overpopulation. Like other wild animals with natural predators, snake populations are maintained by prey abundance (rodents) and levels of predation and disease. Unlike traditional game hunting, there is no monitoring or reporting to regulate the slaughter of snakes. Biologists and conservationists believe that roundups have contributed to the current decline in eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, which have been proposed for listing under the endangered species act.
“Rattlesnake roundups thrive on an anti-snake brainwashed public all too eager to gloat at the demise of sensitive and sentient animals that peacefully reside in North American dens and brushlands,” said Clifford Warwick, reptile biologist and medical scientist. biologist and medical scientist. “No aspect of snake collection, handling, transport, or storage is considerate or humane.”
“These roundups offer a grotesque social commentary about our disconnect from nature,” said McArthur, an award-winning photojournalist, author and activist. “The festive atmosphere at these events conceals obvious and heinous animal cruelty, and emphasizes the peculiar ways we humans accept it as part of our culture.”
Unlike traditional roundups, some have evolved into festivals that celebrate, rather than harm, rattlesnakes, such as the Rattlesnake & Wildlife Festival in Claxton, Georgia.
“Growing up in the rural south, I recognize the importance of community festivals to our culture and economy,” said Amarello. “But I believe, and Claxton’s festival demonstrates, that giving up snake slaughter does not mean losing our festivals or the income they generate. New traditions celebrating our natural heritage without slaughter are more successful than ever.”
To learn more visit www.rattlesnakeroundups.com.
About Advocates for Snake Preservation
ASP promotes compassionate conservation and coexistence with snakes through science, education, and advocacy. ASP identifies and addresses threats to snakes, conducts research, and dispels myths and misinformation about snakes. Snakes are threatened by many of the same issues that affect all wildlife, including habitat loss, climate change, and disease, but negative attitudes toward snakes may be the biggest barrier to their conservation because it often impedes efforts to address other threats. ASP was founded in 2014 and is based in Tucson, Arizona. For more information visit www.snakes.ngo.
House Judiciary Committee passes H.R. 511
NEW YORK—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today applauds the members of the House Judiciary Committee for passing H.R. 511, which bans the importation of and interstate trade in nine nonnative species of large constrictor snakes. This important bipartisan legislation, introduced by Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., amends the list of injurious species under the Lacey Act, a federal act prohibiting trade in certain wildlife, fish, and plants, to include the Indian python, reticulated python, Northern African python, Southern African python, boa constrictor, green anaconda, yellow anaconda, DeSchauensee's anaconda, and Beni anaconda. The committee adopted an amendment introduced by Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., that unfortunately creates an overly broad exemption to the ban for USDA license holders. The ASPCA hopes to see this problem addressed when the legislation is taken up on the House floor for final passage in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“The pet trade in these exotic reptiles poses serious threats to public safety, animal welfare, and the environment,” said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. “Passing H.R. 511 would mark a significant achievement for the welfare of these snakes, for the protection of our native species, and for the safety of our communities. The ASPCA urges support for this important legislation on the House and Senate floors.”
In 2009, the U.S. Geological Survey determined that these nine constrictor snake species pose a threat to the U.S. environment, warranting their inclusion as “injurious” species under the Lacey Act. The Obama Administration recently finalized a rule that adds four of the nine recommended species of dangerous constrictor snakes to the Lacey Act list. Although that was a positive step forward, listing the four species addresses only part of the problem as two of the remaining species recommended for listing–reticulated pythons and boa constrictors–account for two-thirds of all U.S. trade in large constrictor snakes. Further, removing four of the recommended species from the U.S. pet trade only shifts the problem, as the other five species will fill the void in the market.
The exotic pet trade is a multi-billion dollar industry that contributes to the suffering of millions of animals, often threatening public health and safety, disrupting ecosystems and driving species to endangerment and extinction. Each year across the nation, countless numbers of exotic animals are purchased as pets at retail stores and from private breeders and dealers at auctions or over the Internet. Since the vast majority of people who keep exotic animals cannot meet their needs, the animals often become the victims of abuse and neglect.
Perry added, “While the animals pay the ultimate price, local governments and taxpayers are left to bear the enormous fiscal burden when dangerous wild animals are set loose or escape, or when they are seized due to neglect.”
For more information about the exotic pet trade and to join the ASPCA’s Advocacy Brigade, please visit www.aspca.org.
About the ASPCA®
Founded in 1866, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) is the first humane organization established in the Americas and serves as the nation’s leading voice for animal welfare. More than one million supporters strong, the ASPCA’s mission is to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States. As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, the ASPCA is a national leader in the areas of anti-cruelty, community outreach and animal health services. The ASPCA, which is headquartered in New York City, offers a wide range of programs, including a mobile clinic outreach initiative, its own humane law enforcement team, and a groundbreaking veterinary forensics team and mobile animal CSI unit. For more information, please visit www.aspca.org. To become a fan of the ASPCA on Facebook, go to www.facebook.com/aspca. To follow the ASPCA on Twitter, go to www.twitter.com/aspca.