For more than a decade, Burmese pythons have been multiplying unchecked in the wilds of Florida, and thwarting repeated attempts by state environmental officials to get the invasive population under control.
It’s not easy. The snakes – some as long as 16 feet – were originally imported from Asia, and face few natural predators in the Everglades. They are non-venomous, strangle their prey, then eat it whole. They prey on anything and everything from rabbits to foxes to deer – even alligators devastating local wildlife populations and spooking visitors.
After years of debate, and over protests of the reptile industry, which feared any restrictions on their trade, the federal government in 2012 finally banned the import of Burmese pythons – and ultimately seven other giant snakes.
Pythons are not the only invasive species on scientists’ radar. Non-native lizards, fish, frogs, hogs and zebra mussels - to name just a few - are threatening U.S. lands and waterways.