- East of Los Angeles, California, a deceased albino Burmese python measuring 17 feet and 7 inches was found in a garbage dump in Riverside in 2016.
- There’s no indication of how or why the python was there. Many people own Burmese pythons as pets and this snake may have died and been disposed of improperly.
- The Burmese python is a problematic invasive species, with estimates ranging widely from 20,000 to more than 100,000 of these pythons living in southern Florida.
Just east of Los Angeles, California, a resident found a monster snake deceased in a garbage dump in 2016. The snake stretched to 17 feet and 7 inches. For a little perspective, look down at your feet. Now take five or six steps forward and see how far away you get from where you’re sitting now. That distance is roughly the length of the snake in question.
This snake was white with yellow patterning and pale red eyes: an albino Burmese python. It has no business inhabiting any part of southern California.
There’s no clear indication of how the snake got to Riverside, California, or why it was in a garbage dump. However, we can make a few reasonable assumptions because this isn’t an isolated incident. Many people own Burmese pythons as pets, and those who don’t have the desire or ability to care for them anymore tend to release them into the wild.
The snake discovered in Riverside may also have simply died and been disposed of improperly. In any case, the management and ownership of these imported snakes is a serious issue.
Let’s find out why.
Burmese Pythons In The United States
Most of the continental United States is uninhabitable for Burmese pythons. It’s unlikely these snakes would survive in the wild for a significant period of time.
However, some estimates suggest that these pythons could find “suitable” environments almost anywhere along the southernmost border of the U.S. That includes the location of the aforementioned snake found in Riverside, California.
They’re most likely to survive in southern Florida around the Everglades and the southern tip of Texas, both of which share roughly the same latitude. One study suggests that migration of the Burmese python into the greater United States is unlikely because of the animal’s climatological requirements.
As a result, most of the wild pythons in the United States exist in southern Florida.
The Python Problem In Southern Florida
Wild pythons started populating Florida in the late 20th century. Some experts believe the population boom started after Hurricane Andrew disheveled a python breeding facility, setting the snakes free. Some of the first snakes were likely escapees from home cages. Or maybe some were released after owners realized the responsibilities of owning a 20-foot snake.
Those animals reproduced, and the Burmese python has become a problematic invasive species as a result.
Burmese pythons are formidable predators with the ability and desire to feed on many of Florida’s native species. With few natural predators, the ability to lay 100 eggs at a time, and an extremely flexible jaw, the Burmese python has its choice of most mammals in the Everglades.
The population count is unclear, but estimates range widely from 20,000 to more than 100,000 Burmese pythons living in southern Florida. Florida has proposed an interesting solution: bounty hunters.
There are no longer any restrictions on hunting Burmese pythons, and many individuals earn a living hunting them. Hunters are paid an hourly wage, as well as a bounty for the snakes they catch.
The Python Elimination Program incentivizes citizens to humanely catch and euthanize wild pythons in Florida. Python removal agents receive $50 for the first 4 feet of the snake, then an additional $25 for every additional foot.
The snake found in the Riverside dump would have fetched about $375. Agents also get $200 for finding any “verified active nest.” It’s important to note that individual hunters have to be approved and hired by the state.
The program has removed more than 6,800 pythons in the past five years.
But Is Hunting Pythons Humane?
The presence of these snakes is extremely dangerous for all wildlife in the area. If Burmese python populations were left to run rampant, there could be significant ecological consequences to an already vulnerable habitat.
For these reasons, the Python Elimination Program is a net positive for wildlife in the area. Additionally, it has earned the approval of animal rights groups. Officials euthanize the animals according to veterinary standards.
The Lesson For Exotic Snake Ownership
Exotic snakes are legal to own in many parts of the United States. In many cases, the animals are relatively docile and gentle toward their human owners.
There have been cases of pet snakes harming or killing their owners, but the same is true for many types of pets—even domesticated ones. Snakes can be great pets, and many of the most desirable ones are exotic.
The threat an adult Burmese python poses to a community if it’s released cannot be ignored. The animal is more than capable of swallowing a small child, most dogs, cats, and other small mammals.
Other exotic snakes, small as they might be, pose similar threats to other members of our native ecosystems. When an animal is set free in an environment it didn’t evolve in, it has the ability to tragically disrupt the ecosystem.
This 17-foot python is a monstrous reminder to do your research before purchasing exotic animals—especially ones that can go toe-to-toe with adult crocodiles.
Where Is Riverside, California Located On A Map?
Riverside is located in the southern region of California, in the Inland Empire, next to the Santa Ana River, and is about 55 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. The state of California is located in the Western United States along the Pacific Coast. It is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west, Oregon to the north, Arizona, and Nevada to the east, and the Mexican state of Baja California to the south.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Lunatic_67
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- NBC Los Angeles, Available here: https://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/monster-snake-17-feet-dead-found-dump-riverside/2086305/
- ABC News, Available here: https://abcnews.go.com/US/record-breaking-17-foot-python-captured-south-florida/story?id=51616851
- National Invasive Species Information Center, Available here: https://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/terrestrial/vertebrates/burmese-python
- Burma Travels, Available here: https://www.burma-travels.com/the-states-with-bans-on-burmese-pythons/
- USGS, Available here: https://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2009/1202/pdf/OF09-1202.pdf
- History, Available here: https://history.com/news/burmese-python-invasion-florida-everglades