Florida had its first Exotic Pet Amnesty Day so residents could turn in their exotic pets to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation department. Sixty-four animals were brought in, a number unlikely to make much of a dent in the large exotic pet population, but the event is still a good idea because of the problems associated with releasing exotics into the wild.
For example, you may have heard about a huge python in the Everglades that was in the news for consuming a 76-pound deer. There may be tens of thousands of the large snakes in the state and they have been reported moving towards the Keys.
A growing population for Burmese pythons in the Everglades National Park is threatening endangered species and could even interfere with habitat restoration because they can cause so much damage.
Burmese pythons in Florida have not been documented to have hunted humans but large captive ones have attacked and killer their owners. They can grow to over twenty-feet long and weigh up to 200 pounds. While most people might know the large constrictors eat rodents and even deer, they also eat birds and can consume large quantities of them. Because they are so large and live in a habitat without many predators where they can dominate without much opposition, they can increase and spread almost unchecked. Alligators might be eating them, but nothing else is powerful enough to use them as prey. It has already been documented a python attacked and ate an alligator.
Some pet owners believe they are doing the right thing by sparing the life of their snakes when releasing them into the wild, but some of them proliferate and wind up taking over habitat for the native wild animals, thus upsetting the ecosystem, and presenting very challenging problems for conservation officials.
The best action is simply to never purchase an exotic animal in the first place, and the second is to get rid of it in a manner which prevents damage to local habitats. It may be distasteful and even upsetting, but turning over exotic animals is much better than letting them go in a state park or national forest.
Image Credit: Danleo