Wyatt’s testimony came as a jarring contradiction to the survey published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that found the glade’s raccoons had declined 99.3 percent, opossums 98.9 percent and bobcats 87.5 percent. Marsh rabbits and foxes seemed to have completely disappeared. A study out last spring from the Smithsonian Institute found that pythons were similarly devouring nesting birds. And their eggs.
The captains of reptile industry also wanted to argue with findings by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that pythons and other constrictors could potentially flourish in states north of Florida and “expand to colder climates.” Industry reps spent a lot of time and testimony trying to belittle work by Michael F. Dorcas of Davidson University that unpinned the Fish and Wildlife report.
Dorcas happens to be one of the country’s leading herpetology researchers and co-author of Invasive Pythons in the United States, and, outside the alternate universe of Congress, might have provided the definitive word on the subject. But, alas, no. “Opponents of this legislation, most of whom are affiliated with the pet industry, have expressed opinions questioning the scientific rationale behind the proposed listing,” Dorcas told me via email Friday. “They provide no scientific, peer-reviewed published information that actually contradicts the approaches or conclusions of any of our published studies.”
Of course, even if our elected representatives don’t want to believe pythons and other constrictors can take the cold up north, the prospect of climate change and global warming might cause lawmakers to consider the snakes as a future threat, worth banning. Except, the guys running the House are no more amenable to the scientific evidence behind global warming than they are to warnings about potential snake infestations. Herpetologists have obviously joined climatologists in the scientist conspiracy to undermine American competitiveness.
Not that this dust-up over snakes was a partisan political issue. The snake ban bill was championed by Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney of Tequesta, which is uncomfortably close to the creepy crawlers’ ever-expanding range. His fellow Florida Republican Southerland, who hated it, is from Panama City, up in the Panhandle, where there have only been two or three feral python sightings. So far.
So the exotic snake industry was rescued last week. It may be bad news for rabbits, opossums, chipmunks, foxes, herons and small, unattended children, but think of all those hundreds of thousands of snake breeding jobs Congress saved on behalf of a snake-bit American economy.
Besides, there’s always a chance that those discarded pet Nile monitors and those former pet Nile crocodiles will be able to proliferate fast enough to stanch the spread of the descendents of pet snakes. Or maybe, just maybe, Buck or Lassie or Old Yeller or Clifford the Big Red Dog will rush into the Capitol, nip a few reptilian congressman on the butt, and save the day, at least for mammals.