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Archive for the ‘Reptiles’ Category

python faceA special hunting season opened in Florida this year, python hunting.

From Monday March 8, 2010 until April 17, anyone with a hunting license, who pays for the $26 permit, can take them on state-managed lands around the Everglades in South Florida.

Florida officials have taken a more aggressive stance against the invasive species in the past year, creating the python hunting season and issuing broader permits to experts to kill as many as possible. The state has even held workshops for those inexperienced with pythons on how to identify, stalk and capture the reptiles.  In addition to Burmese, Indian and African rock pythons, hunters can also take green anacondas and Nile monitor lizards.

In addition to hunting these snakes, the hunters are being attacked by killer bees.  You can learn more about the killer bees, and watch the video, at the end of this post.


Africa’s largest snake—the ill-tempered, 20-foot-long (6.1-meter-long) African rock python—is colonizing the U.S. The Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus) is native throughout Southeast Asia including Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, southern China, and Indonesia. While Burmese are being captive bred in the U.S. and Europe, native populations are considered to be “threatened” and are listed on Appendix II of Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species. All the giant pythons (including the Indian, African Rock and Reticulated pythons) have historically been slaughtered to supply the international fashion industry with exotic skins. The exportation of young snakes for the pet trade and for their blood and gall as used in folk medicine has put additional pressures on the wild populations that cannot be sustained.

python mouth 1More dangerous than even Burmese pythons—which are known to eat alligators —the African pythons are so mean, they are known to come out of the egg striking.  This is just one vicious animal.

Burmese pythons have already eaten thousands of native animals in the Everglades.  With the addition of the rock python, Florida is now an established home-away-from-home for three large alien constricto—including the Burmese species and the boa constrictor.

steve Irwin

Steve Irwin

This brings up the topic of having one of these as a pet. Do you really want a snake that may grow more than 20 feet long or weigh 200 pounds, urinate and defecate like a horse, will live more than 25 years and for whom you will have to kill mice, rats and, eventually, rabbits (no chickens any more due to the ever increasing rate of Salmonella in the food industry)?

Many people think that when they decide they don’t want their Burmese any more–when it gets to be 8 or 10 or 15 feet long–it will be easy to find someone who does. Take a look at the animal classifieds – they always have sale ads for big pythons. The zoo doesn’t want any more – they already have one or more giant snakes from other people. The local herpetology societies and reptile veterinarians always have big pythons for whom they are trying to find homes. Burms are increasingly being abandoned at vets and animal shelters and are being euthanized for lack of proper homes for them. Breeders keep breeding them, however, because so many people are willing to buy these ‘cool’ giants…knowing full well that they will be dumped when ‘too’ big. At 10 feet and 40+ pounds, a 3-year old Burmese is already eating rabbits a couple of times a month and is very difficult to handle alone. You have to interact with them constantly to keep them tame – do you want a hungry, cranky 100 pound, 12 foot snake mistaking your face for prey?  Who is going to help you clean its enclosure?  Take it to the vet when it’s sick? Take care of it when you go away to school or on vacation?  No matter how much they love you, there are some things a mother, and your friends, will not do!

Owning a giant snake is NOT COOL – it is a major, long-term, frequently very expensive responsibility. Not only that, but even the nicest, gentlest of burms can become killers, even when not very large.  To learn more about these snakes, click here.

killer bee

Africanized Honey Bees — also called killer bees — are descendants of southern African bees imported in 1956 by Brazilian scientists attempting to breed a honey bee better adapted to the South American tropics.

When some of these bees escaped quarantine in 1957, they began breeding with local Brazilian honey bees, quickly multiplying and extended their range throughout South and Central America at a rate greater than 200 miles per year. In the past decade, AHB began invading North America.

Africanized bees acquired the name killer bees because they will viciously attack people and animals who unwittingly stray into their territory, often resulting in serious injury or death.

It is not necessary to disturb the hive itself to initiate an AHB attack. In fact, Africanized bees have been know to respond viciously to mundane occurrences, including noises or even vibrations from vehicles, equipment and pedestrians.

Though their venom is no more potent than native honey bees, Africanized bees attack in far greater numbers and pursue perceived enemies for greater distances. Once disturbed, colonies may remain agitated for 24 hours, attacking people and animals within a range of a quarter mile from the hive.

Africanized bees proliferate because they are less discriminating in their choice of nests than native bees, utilizing a variety of natural and man-made objects , including hollow trees, walls, porches, sheds, attics, utility boxes, garbage containers and abandoned vehicles. They also tend to swarm more often than other honey bees.

Snake-150x150I was so shocked to hear about this because I always had people call Justin if they had an issue with a wild animal.  I love Mixon Fruit Farm and thought Justin was doing the right thing.  A veterinarian I know very well always told me he had concerns about the animals in Justin’s care.  You never know who people really are.

This story needs to be told.  It is about abuse of an innocent creature. Whatever you think of snakes in general, and pythons in particular, you would at least have to agree they do not deserve this sort of treatment.


A Florida wildlife trapper who owns a wildlife rescue company has admitted that his highly publicized capture of a 14-foot python last month was staged.

Justin Matthews, the owner of Matthews Wildlife Rescue in Manatee County, bills himself as a wildlife expert and recently partnered with Mixon Fruit Farms in Bradenton, Florida, to found a wildlife refuge.  The stated mission of Matthews’ joint venture is to “rehabilitate injured wildlife for release back into the wild, and to promote education, appreciation and respect for wildlife.”

Not Much Respect for Wildlife

Matthews, however, has a not-so-funny way of showing his appreciation and respect for wildlife, or his inclination toward their rehabilitation.  According to reports, Matthews purchased the reptile legally more than a month ago from a shop.  He then placed the snake in a concrete pipe in Manatee County near a supermarket and a day care center.  But not before planting rumors of a python sighting in the area and pretending to find a “belly track” near the drain pipe.

While onlookers, firefighters and members of the media crowded around on July 25, Matthews staged a phony battle with the female python while it hunkered in the concrete pipe.  As part of the so-called rescue, Matthews struck the snake in the head with a stick a number of times.

Justin Matthews later gave a statement to the media in which he insisted he staged the capture as an educational public service, to draw attention to the fact that there are so many pythons on the loose in Florida.  However, his excuse lacks credibility.  He initially lied to state investigators about the incident, maintaining that the incident was a true capture.  And his claim materialized only after the media exposed the capture as a ruse.

The incident makes one suspicious of Matthews’ other publicized wildlife captures, including the 2008 capture of a 13-foot python in the same town.

Matthews Deserves an Animal Cruelty Charge

At the least, Matthews could be charged with failure to microchip the snake as required by Florida law.  However, prosecutors should consider charging Matthews under Florida’s animal cruelty statute, which provides that any person who “unnecessarily . . . torments . . . any animal . . . is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree.”  Animal is defined in the statutes as “every living dumb creature;” thus, snakes are included within the meaning of “animal” for purposes of the Florida animal cruelty statute.

Justin Matthews’ crime fits the elements of the statute in that he unnecessarily tormented the python by placing it in the drain pipe and staging a “rescue” during which he beat the reptile about the head.

Misdemeanor cruelty to animals in Florida carries a punishment of up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Sweetie can Feel Pain

After the dramatic “rescue,” Matthews named the snake Sweetie and has been keeping her in one of his exhibits.  Sweetie, like all snakes, is capable of feeling pain.  According to the Venomous Snake Research Center, scientists are discovering that pain perception in reptiles is more advanced than previously thought.  Therefore, Sweetie felt the blows to her head.

She did not deserve the treatment she received, and the State of Florida should investigate this incident thoroughly and prosecute Justin Matthews appropriately.
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