This past summer several large Burmese Pythons were captured in South Florida. It is a well-established fact that many owners of these exotic serpents have turned them loose in the Everglades and other areas of Florida once the snakes became too large and too dangerous to handle. Many snakes have been captured over the last decade but all were identified as former pets that had been released into the wild by irresponsible owners. What caught my eye on this news story is that the 17 ft. 206 lb. python captured this past summer was wild. This confirms that these pythons have become acclimated to the swamps of Florida and have begun to breed successfully. A large population of Burmese Pythons in Florida could wreak havoc on the delicate Everglades ecosystem. You can access the news story here.
The article got me thinking about the similarities between the Everglades of South Florida and swamps and bayous of Southeast Texas. A little research reveals how similar these two areas of the country really are. For the sake of this article I compared Okeechobee, Florida, where the wild python was captured this past summer, and Beaumont, Texas, which lies just outside the borders of the legendary Big Thicket.
Beaumont lies at a mere 16 ft. above sea level. Okeechobee sits at a towering, by comparison anyway, 29 ft. above sea level. These two areas are also very close in latitude. Beaumont comes in at a latitude of 30.08 degrees North while Okeechobee sits at 27.74 degrees North latitude. This is a difference of a mere 2.34 degrees. Based on these facts, a reasonable assumption would be that the two areas would have similar climates. A little more digging reveals that to be the case. The following two graphs show the average temperatures of Okeechobee (top) and Beaumont (bottom).
Rainfall patterns proved to be similar as well. See the charts below showing annual precipitation in Okeechobee (top) and Beaumont (bottom).
The similarities between the two areas lead me to think that exotic snakes, like the Burmese Pythons being seen in Florida, would do just fine here in the Lone Star State. This could be an ecological disaster for indigenous species of our state. Everything from birds, to mammals (large and small), to alligators would be on the menu for these giant constrictors. I fear it is only a matter of time before reports of giant snakes begin to come in from Southeast Texas. It may become an even larger problem, however. The USGS recently published a graphic (below) showing just how much of the continental United States would be considered suitable habitat for pythons. The graphic is sobering.
I would ask any readers who sight what they believe to be one of these snakes or who come across any news articles documenting their presence in Southeast Texas / Southwest Louisiana to alert me. I hope I'm wrong but it is my opinion that we will begin having to deal with the problem of giant snakes in Texas sooner rather than later.
ADDENDUM - Ok, I had not seen the recent article from Texas Fish & Game about giant snakes in Texas when I wrote the above article. However, the article confirms my suspicions as it mentions a 13 ft. long Burmese Python captured in a ditch in Port Arthur, Texas. Give the article a look here.