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“You ain’t from around here, are you?”
If you’re from the South, you’ll recognize that as the polite, seven-word shorthand for times when we really want to say: “Go back to wherever you came from before you make this place as miserable as the one you left.” But don’t worry, we usually reserve that sentiment for genuine jerks and idiots.
Between state laws, the US Constitution and the Holy Bible, there’s not much you can do about invasive people. But there’s a lot we can do about plants and animals that make their way here. And we’d better get busy because Florida has turned into a virtual Ellis Island for foreign flora and fauna.
We’ve already lost the battle against fire ants, armadillos and kudzu, but we still have a chance to stop the Burmese python from becoming a permanent Florida resident. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), there is now a breeding population of them in the Florida Everglades and scientists are worried they could change the entire ecosystem.
I’m worried they’ll find their way up here to Northwest Florida.
Let me be real clear about something: I really don’t like snakes. I know they have their place, and I’ve made peace with all the native species. I consider it a sign of maturity that I no longer shoot or hack up every one I see.
But pythons? Oh, hell no.
We’re talking about a snake that can grow to be almost 30 feet long and squeeze a full-grown man to death. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in a state where bears and gators have to watch where they step. I certainly don’t want to ever see one in the Apalachicola River swamp.
So count me among the many folks who are happy about FWC’s Python Challenge™, a month-long effort to “harvest” as many pythons as possible. The only thing I would do differently is rename it “The Great Python Murder-a-thon” and extend it indefinitely.
See, my goal isn’t to just rid the Everglades of pythons; I want to leave a scar on all their future generations. Drive them all back to the jungles of Asia, where they can tell their grandchildren about the terrible mistake they made coming to Florida.
But just like with everything else, there’s a group of people out there defending the “rights” of pythons to be Floridians. I actually met a man who said, “We humans are an invasive species ourselves.”
“Okay,” I said. “Then let’s approach it another way. As a human, if I was hunting out of season and without a license, FWC officers would stop me. They would tell me to put my hands over my head and, if I didn’t, they would shoot me.”
“So here’s the deal,” I continued. “Any pythons who surrender and put their hands over their heads get to live. All the rest get shot immediately.”
The guy got a little angry and he wanted to argue the point some more. But I decided to be polite and end the conversation the best way I knew how.
“You ain’t from around here, are you?” I asked.