So far this “National Invasive Species Awareness Week,” we’ve met the Asian tiger mosquito and the European green crab. Now it’s time for something a little more terrifying: the Burmese python (Python bivittatus). Wait! Before you xenophobic ophidiophobes run away screaming, let’s hear this giant, stealthy snake out.
Q. Before we get started, I want to thank you for giving me a few minutes of your time. I know you don’t usually give interviews.
A. Anything for Grist.
Q. Do I detect sarcasm?
Q. Right. Let me get straight to the point. People are pretty upset with you over the Everglades.
A. Yes. Lovely area.
Q. It is a lovely area, but you’ve been wreaking havoc on it for the past 15 years: eating raccoons, bobcats, rabbits, opossums, deer, alligators, song birds … even endangered species like the wood stork. And then, of course, there are reports of you savagely attacking people’s pets.
A. Big snake, big appetite.
Q. Don’t you think you’re being kind of selfish? I understand that a 15-foot snake needs to eat, but some animal populations are really hurting because of you.
A. You want to talk about pain? Pain is living your life in a glass box. Pain is seeing baby snakes sold at flea markets for $20 a piece like antique trinkets. We’ve suffered plenty to get to where we are now, so forgive me if I don’t give a damn about the bobcats or the opossums or even the precious wood stork.
Q. No one’s saying your species hasn’t suffered, but the fact is: you don’t belong here. It’s not your native ecosystem. You’re jockeying for space with other apex predators like the alligator.
A. I appreciate your concern, but we can handle the alligators.
Q. You know what I meant.
A. Is it really fair to blame us for the stupidity of your own species? You brought us over here to make us your pets, as if you’d be able to contain snakes that grow as long as 20 feet. You should’ve known that we’d either escape, or we’d be set free by some poor chumps who failed to realize that hungry baby pythons eventually turn into hungry giant pythons.
Q. Well if you feel no remorse for what you’ve done to the Everglades and other parts of Florida —
A. I don’t.
Q. Well if that’s the case, then can I ask where you plan to go from here?
A. Anywhere there’s food and warm weather. Climate change should open up roughly the bottom one-third of the continental U.S. for us, so that’s very exciting. Like a lot of Americans, we’d really like to get out of Florida.
Q. You know we won’t make it easy for you to spread.
A. Of course you won’t. You’ve got Obama preventing any more of us from entering the states. You’ve got your Python patrols and your state-sponsored hunts — you’re clearly putting up a fight, and we respect you for that.
Q. But you don’t think we can stop you?
A. We may be big, but we’re stealthy. Just keep this in mind — for every one of us you see, there are 99 that you don’t.