In the Everglades, recent counts reveal that 88 percent of bobcats, 99 percent of raccoons and opossums, and effectively 100 percent of rabbits and foxes have simply disappeared from the park, reports the Washington Post.
Why? Because giant, invasive snakes ate them.
The snakes are literally fighting with alligators to sit atop the swamp’s food chain. In October, a 16-foot python was found resting after devouring a deer.
“There aren’t many native mammals that pythons can’t choke down,” said Robert N. Reed, a research wildlife biologist at the U.S. Geologial Survey’s Fort Collins Science Center.
Pythons and anacondas, once brought to Florida as pets, escaped into the wild and have basically taken over. (In 2009 the New Yorker ran a piece on the subject that has to rank among the best pieces of science writing, ever.)
Officials don’t really know how to curb the existing snake population, nor do they have any idea how to stop its spread into Texas and Louisiana. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service believes the Burmese python could adapt to colder weather, even freezing temperatures, pushing their range ever further north.