If I had not known better, I would have thought that I was watching a science fiction movie, something along the lines of the old Alfred Hitchcock themes like “The Birds.” But no, it was a documentary. Real horror!

In an earlier column, I mentioned the Burmese python problem that is occurring in South Florida. But I guess I didn’t really grasp the enormity of the situation until the Discovery Channel painted me a gruesome picture Tuesday evening. Along with the narration of Peter Coyote and some special effects sound tracking, it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It can no long stand up on the top of my head.

Anyway, this was all about what scientists are doing to try to combat such a slithering problem. And unlike global warming where there is much debate and you can’t just look out the window and see it, in the case of the pythons you can look out the window and notice that Fido and Rover are gone. And you can watch as a team of animal experts remove a dozen two-foot hatchlings out from under your garage.

And now to add insult to injury, researchers have discovered a different species of python in the Florida wilds. It’s the North African rock python. One scientist said this species makes the Burmese python look like a pussy cat. Unlike the Burmese python that will lie in wait to ambush prey, the rock python will chase it. I guess you say it is proactive. And it’s bigger — big enough to kill and devour a small deer. The scientists speculate that these two species can inter breed which could pose a whole new set of problems.

Now most of this issue lies within the Everglades National Park. But scientists are afraid, based on climate adaptations in Asia, that the pythons can move northward as far as Tennessee and even Washington, D.C. That means we are in the adaptable zone here in South Georgia and North Florida. And that’s where I got up to make sure the den door was locked and to comb the hair down on the back of my neck.

Now the scientists don’t really know how many pythons they are dealing with. They are sure there are tens of thousands of them, but they say there could be hundreds of thousands since their mortality rate is very low and they breed so prolifically.

They are dissecting some of them to study their food supply. They have found possums, raccoons, birds, and rats, among other creatures. One even swallowed a grown alligator. Now that’s scary given that the alligator’s only enemy is man.

They’ve moved several male pythons to a research center in South Carolina to see how they adapt to cold. And they apparently have adapted well. Now that’s really scary ... a snake as long as your water hose and as big around as a sewer line that wants to come in out of the cold.

Florida opened a hunting season on the snakes recently but only 35 were killed. Right now, scientists aren’t sure the population can be controlled. But let’s hope they come up with an answer to the problem in the very near future. Given how far they might range in the U.S., if they ever get to Washington, we can be assured the problem will never be solved. But factoring their appetites for varmints ... oh well, I don’t want to seem insensitive so I’ll just close here.

(Dwain Walden is editor/publisher of The Moultrie Observer, 985-4545. Email: dwain.walden@gaflnews.com)

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