Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - 34

U n i t i Introduction

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34

FIguRE 3-9 this albino

Burmese python might be
getting a little too large to
keep in your home as a pet.
You cannot legally release it
into the wild. What are your
options?

In general, an invasive species has some kind of characteristic that allows it to
out-compete other species in the ecosystem. For native species, it might involve
the loss of natural predators. For example, the natural predators of deer include
wolves and large cats. People fear wolves and large cats so they try to eliminate
them from areas where we live. When their predators disappear, deer populations
expand. Deer have become, for all practical purposes, an invasive species in many
parts of the United States.
A non-native species can be introduced in an area in many ways. It might
move naturally into a new area by itself. People may introduce it intentionally
or unintentionally. Regardless, once a new species is introduced into an ecosystem, first it must survive there. If it can find food and shelter, and if the
species is introduced in large enough numbers to breed, it will survive in the
new ecosystem. If there are no natural predators in the new ecosystem, it may
even thrive.
The Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus) is just such an introduced
species in the wetlands of southern Florida. Pythons are a popular pet in
the United States because they are colorful and they are known to be docile.
Unfortunately, they also grow very large. In its native home of Southeast Asia,
the python is hunted for meat and skins and to export for pets, so people keep
the population under control. In fact, it is classified as a "near-threatened" species
there. In the United States, there are no natural predators for mature Burmese
pythons.
An estimated 99,000 baby Burmese pythons were imported into the
United States between 1996 and 2006 as pets. At a pet store, a "pretty" little
snake might be only 12 inches long and sell for $75. Within a year, it might be
eight feet long (Figure 3-9). The pet owner who purchases a Burmese python
will soon be faced with a choice: Find it a new home, or have it euthanized.
Tender hearted pet owners looking for new homes for their over grown pet
pythons all too often simply release them into the wild, and that is a very
bad idea.
In colder climates, the snakes simply die during the winter. In South
Florida, they thrive because the climate is so similar to their native home.
They also thrive because nobody is hunting them for meat, skins, or for the
international pet trade. Finally, they thrive because there is no natural predator for a 20-foot long, 200-pound snake in that ecosystem. The result is that
the Burmese python is an important invasive species in the wetlands of South
Florida. It consumes native animals, such as raccoons and deer. It threatens pets
and even people.
There are thousands of other examples. Kudzu is an invasive plant species
(see Chapter 7, figure 7-8). The Africanized honeybee (Apis mellifera scutellata),
the Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis), and the wild boar (Sus scrofa) are
well known invasive species in the United States. The Case Study for Unit III
is on the zebra mussel, an invasive mollusk. Invasive species have become so
important that the president established the National Invasive Species Council
(NISC) in 1999. The NISC is co-chaired by the secretaries of Agriculture,
Interior, and Commerce. It includes as members the Secretaries of State,
Defense, Homeland Security, Treasury, Transportation, and Health and Human
Services. It also includes the administrators of the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and U.S. Agency for
International Development. In 2005, the U.S. Department of Agriculture created the National Invasive Species Information Center (NISIC) as a part of the
National Agricultural Library.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp

Contents
Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - Cover1
Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - Cover2
Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - i
Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - ii
Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - iii
Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - iv
Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - v
Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - Contents
Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - vii
Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - viii
Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - ix
Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - x
Managing Our Natural Resources, 6e, Camp - xi
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