Sunday, January 10, 2010

Iguanas and pythons and turtles, oh my!

The deep freeze that has hit virtually all parts of the southern United States over the last several days has wreaked havoc on the citrus crop in Florida. It has also caused a lot of misery for wildlife in the area that is not used to such cold temperatures. That's not all bad though.

Florida has been a fertile ground for the growth and expansion of invasive species. Two members of the reptile family in particular have caused great concern in recent years - the iguana which can sometimes grow up to six feet long and the Burmese python which can reach lengths of 20 feet and pose a threat not only to wildlife but to domestic pets and to humans. The state's wildlife service has been working to trap and euthanize these potentially dangerous animals. The cold has suddenly made their jobs a lot easier.

The cold temperatures cause the iguanas to become torpid and fall out of the trees they have climbed. They can then be picked up and euthanized. The pythons as well go into an almost catatonic state when exposed to these cold temperatures. So although the citrus farmers might have a hard time seeing it, it seems that the Arctic blast may actually have a silver lining for Florida.

Unfortunately, another member of the reptile family, sea turtles, some of which are already endangered, are also adversely affected by the cold. Some have had to be rescued and moved to cover until the cold abates. Others probably have perished in the unexpected cold.

This is the kind of weather that helps to sort out those species that don't belong from the native species that do belong here. It will be interesting to see what will be the long-term effects of actually having winter weather in the South once again.

2 comments:

  1. It seems like I read something last year about the pythons basically taking over portions of Florida and damaging the balance of the natural ecosystem. Hopefully with a little help from Mother Nature, some of the land can be re-claimed by native species.

    And furthermore, SHAME on those people who abandon their pet pythons and iguanas, levaing them to fend for themselves in the wild when they become too large or too expensive to care for. There are other options - places you can turn over your pets if you can no longer take care of them.

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  2. Absolutely. At its root, it is not an iguana or python problem. It is a human irresponsibility problem.

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