Due to the fact that a lot of people (3) are now angry with me over my recent columns about using the anti-coagulant warfarin to thin out the wild feral hog population of Texas, we’re going to move on to something else. But before we do, I just want to go on record as saying I haven’t been trying to talk anyone into poisoning hogs. I also haven’t been trying to talk anyone out of poisoning hogs. Shooting them is a lot more fun, though, and no one complains about that. Well, except for the antis, and if you can’t irritate the antis, you just aren’t trying.
Plus, there are a lot of other animals to worry about. Texas has hogs, and they’re a big nuisance, but I sometimes wonder if it isn’t worse in other places. Florida, for instance, has a problem of its own. Well, Florida has a lot of problems, but we don’t have space here to list them all. So we’ll just focus on one large, long, slithery problem Florida has – wild Burmese pythons.
For almost three decades, Florida wildlife officers have been trying to eradicate the pythons from the Florida swamps. They’ve failed miserably, chiefly because Florida is pretty much nothing but swamps. The state’s name is derived from an old Seminole Indian word that translates, roughly, to ‘Your four-wheel-drive ain’t gonna do you no good, Bubba.’
The pythons in Florida are not native. They’re from Burma. Duh. The consensus is that the early ones once were people’s pets, until they (the snakes) got big enough to start swallowing stuff they weren’t supposed to, such as other pets, couches, and Floridians. So they (the people) did the responsible thing, as Floridians always do, and turned them loose in the swamps. Why not?
As it turns out, Florida swamps are ideal habitat for pythons, and they’ve done very well, proliferating to the point where you can hardly sling an alligator in Florida without hitting a python. And if you do, the python will probably swallow the alligator. Suffice it to say, the pythons have pretty much taken over, and are destroying the Florida swamp ecosystem. Granted, it was a fixer-upper to begin with, being as how it was already full of mosquitoes, venomous snakes, and alligators, but now it’s even worse.
According to a recent story in the Miami Herald, written by Jenny Staletovich (an old Seminole Indian word meaning ‘Staletovich’), the Florida biologists have tried just about everything to get rid of the snakes. They’ve tried snake-sniffing dogs, which seems to me a poor idea, since most dogs I’ve known are smart enough to lie about finding something that can swallow them whole – “Nope, nothin’ here, boss!” They’ve tried releasing female snakes with radio trackers to act as Judas snakes, but that didn’t work because, well, it just didn’t. They even tried an iPhone app that allowed people to immediately report a snake sighting. I can’t imagine what went wrong, there. In 2016 they even hired a couple of Irula tribesmen, whose ancestors hunted the pythons to extinction in India. Unfortunately, Florida ain’t India. I guess St. Patrick wasn’t available.
The coolest thing the Florida wildlife folks did to raise awareness about the pythons and educate the public was when they held the 2016 Python Challenge. Billed as the Burmese Python Removal Competition, the idea was to get people to catch the snakes and turn them in for a reward, or at least the privilege of moving out of Florida. Unfortunately, the pythons accepted the challenge, and won. Only 106 snakes were turned in.
But Florida’s wildlife people haven’t given up. They’ve decided to hire snake hunters, and pay them an hourly wage plus a bonus for each snake they kill. The Florida Water Management District has allotted $175,000 for this effort, which is, of course, doomed to failure. Because pythons.
The best line in Jenny’s article, though, is where she said, “Controlling the pythons has vexed biologists and wildlife officers who have been outgunned by the slithery invaders . . .” Which made it sound like the pythons have guns. That turned out not to be the case, but it did get me to read the whole story, just to see if there was anything in there about grenades.
Maybe they should try an ‘Adopt-A-Python’ program. I’ll bet the snakes would make great burglary deterrents, at least as good as squirrels. And squirrels work pretty good, according to a recent story in the Idaho Statesman.
A teenager broke into a house in Meridian, Idaho to burgle some guns, but while he was trying to get into the safe, the owner’s pet squirrel, Joey, attacked him, scratching him and causing him to run for his life. The boy is quoted as saying the squirrel ‘went spider monkey on me.’ Don’t you hate it when that happens?
But then, strange things occur in Idaho. An AP story recently reported that a woman hit a deer with her car near Potlatch, Idaho because she was ‘distracted by a sasquatch in her rearview mirror.’ Well, who wouldn’t be?
So forget warfarin. What we need to do is run all the hogs over into Florida, stay out of Idaho, and keep a weather eye out for sasquatches. The hogs will eat the pythons, and the everglades will eat the hogs.
I don’t know what to do about the sasquatches, but if they become a problem we can always bring in some spider monkeys . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who once shot a squirrel in his pajamas. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.