Five giant invasive snakes pose high risks to ecosystems in USOctober 14th, 2009 - 4:05 pm ICT by ANI
Washington, October 14 (ANI): A US Geological Survey (USGS) report has determined that five giant non-native snake species would pose high risks to the health of ecosystems in the United States should they become established in the country.
The USGS report details the risks of nine non-native boa, anaconda and python species that are invasive or potentially invasive in the United States.
Because all nine species share characteristics associated with greater risks, none was found to be a low ecological risk.
Two of these species are documented as reproducing in the wild in South Florida, with population estimates for Burmese pythons in the tens of thousands.
Mature individuals of the largest species-Burmese, reticulated, and northern and southern African pythons-have been documented as attacking and killing people in the wild in their native range, though such unprovoked attacks appear to be quite rare, according to the report’s authors.
The snake most associated with unprovoked human fatalities in the wild is the reticulated python.
“This report clearly reveals that these giant snakes threaten to destabilize some of our most precious ecosystems and parks, primarily through predation on vulnerable native species,” said Dr. Robert Reed, a coauthor of the report and a USGS invasive species scientist and herpetologist.
High-risk species-Burmese pythons, northern and southern African pythons, boa constrictors and yellow anacondas-put larger portions of the US mainland at risk, constitute a greater ecological threat, or are more common in trade and commerce.
Medium-risk species-reticulated python, Deschauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda and Beni anaconda-constitute lesser threats in these areas, but still are potentially serious threats.
The reticulated python is the world’s longest snake, and the green anaconda is the heaviest snake.
Both species have been found in the wild in South Florida, although breeding populations are not yet confirmed for either.
Breeding populations have been confirmed in South Florida for Burmese pythons and the boa constrictor, and there is strong evidence that the northern African python may have a breeding population in the wild as well.
“Compounding their risk to native species and ecosystems is that these snakes mature early, produce large numbers of offspring, travel long distances, and have broad diets that allow them to eat most native birds and mammals,” said Dr. Gordon Rodda, a USGS scientist at the Fort Collins Science Center and the other coauthor of the report. (ANI)
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