Invasive species are one of the biggest threats to our planet’s natural biodiversity. An invasive species is both non-native and harmful. Invasive species can be any living thing, from plants and insects to birds, fish, or even snakes. Here, we’ll go over five snakes that are invasive species.
Snakes become invasive when they establish a breeding population in a new area after escaping captivity. This is especially true for exotic species of snake imported as pets. When people get tired of their exotic snakes, or they just get too big to handle, they all too often turn to release them into the wild. This takes care of the problem for the owner but can have disastrous consequences for the local environment.
Whether released on purpose or escaped by accident, snakes that are invasive species can cause massive environmental damage. Here, we’ll learn more about five of the worst invasive snakes in the world. Then, we’ll take a look at two places on Earth that do everything they can to keep invasive snakes from wrecking their native habitats.
5. Wolf Snakes in Australia
Wolf snakes were first introduced to Australia’s Christmas Island in 1987. Christmas Island lies off the coast of Java, far to the north and west of the Australian mainland. Immediately upon introduction, the venomous, invasive wolf snakes began hunting and eating the island’s rare reptiles. These include the Christmas Island forest skinks, blue-tailed skinks, and Lister’s geckos.
In less than 30 years, the wolf snakes that are invasive species on Christmas Island had completely decimated the local lizard populations. Four of the island’s species of lizard are now extinct, almost certainly due to the wolf snake. Since the creatures on Christmas Island evolved without having to worry about wolf snakes (or any snake for that matter), they had no natural defense against this invasive species.
4. Boa Constrictors in Florida
When you think of snakes that are invasive species in Florida, boa constrictors probably aren’t the first snakes that come to mind. This is because, unlike other invasive snakes in Florida, the boa constrictor has invaded only a small part of the southern state. Currently, they’re restricted to the Deering Estate park in southern Florida. Efforts are being made to remove boa constrictors from the park. But, once invasive snakes begin breeding, complete removal becomes next to impossible.
3. Northern African Pythons in Florida
At number three on our list of snakes that are invasive, the northern African python currently lives in only a small part of Florida. In the last two decades, enough northern African pythons have been seen in Miami-Dade County in southern Florida to raise alarm. Like the boa constrictor, the northern African python has begun to colonize a small part of Florida. They’re extremely dangerous to local populations of mammals, reptiles, and birds.
2. Brown Tree Snakes in Guam
Since the 1950s, a menace has stalked the island of Guam, consuming every bird, lizard, and small mammal in its path. Out of all the snakes that are invasive, the brown tree snake has done some of the worst ecological damage.
First brought to Guam accidentally in cargo around 70 years ago, the brown tree snake has since wiped out almost every native bird on the island. Because they’re invasive and have no predators in Guam, their population has exploded, and they frequently grow much larger than normal. Though there have been efforts to exterminate this incredibly destructive species, the damage has already been done. Green tree snakes are likely in Guam for good.
1. Burmese Pythons in Florida
Number one on our list of snakes that are invasive is possibly one of the most famous invasive species in the world. Back in the 1980s, a small number of Burmese pythons found their way into the Florida Everglades. We may never know whether they were intentionally released or simply escaped.
What is known is these invasive snakes affect the local biodiversity. With no natural predators and an abundance of food, they quickly reproduced. With every new Burmese python born in the Everglades, a few more small mammals become dinner. Now, because of the disastrous efficacy of the Burmese python, there are almost no small mammals left in the Everglades.
Scientists and land managers are currently working to exterminate these devastating invasive snakes. But, Burmese pythons are good at hiding, and even one breeding pair can restart a population. It’s likely that Florida will never be rid of its Burmese pythons, to the detriment of the local biodiversity.
Are There Invasive Snakes in New Zealand?
As we’ve learned by looking at five invasive snakes, invasive snakes on islands can cause rampant damage. For that reason, New Zealand has a total ban on any snakes coming onto the islands. Anyone found attempting to import a snake into New Zealand faces fines and jail time.
Are There Invasive Snakes in Hawaii?
Just like New Zealand, Hawaii is (almost) snake-free. An invasive snake on the Hawaiian islands would be devastating to the local birds, reptiles, and small mammals. So, to prevent snakes, like the brown tree snake, from invading the islands, Hawaii has strict biosecurity measures. By keeping snakes out of the islands, they hope to avoid the near-total loss of native birds experienced by Guam.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Heiko Kiera/Shutterstock.com
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