How Native to Florida are Burmese Pythons?

By Cyberquill 06/21/201639 Comments

Alligators are native to Florida. Burmese pythons are not … or are they?

While pinpointing the genesis of the Sunshine State’s burgeoning Burmese python population has proven elusive, it appears that at some point in the second half of the 20th century an unspecified number of imported pet pythons either escaped or were dumped into the Everglades.

First sightings date back to the 1980s.

Perhaps some recovering reptile aficionado woke up one day and resolved to trade his private constrictor collection for something a little more low maintenance. Because Al Gore hadn’t invented the Internet yet, googling “how to properly dispose of pet pythons” wasn’t an option, and so he loaded his scaly friends onto his pickup, drove them out into the Floridian wetlands, where he assumed—quite correctly, as it turns out (and to the detriment of the local mammalian fauna)—they’d feel reasonably at home, bid the slithering knot of serpents a heartfelt adieu, released them, then turned around and headed for his local pet shop to pick out a ferret.

Given that Burmese pythons have since been merrily proliferating in Florida, why are they still considered native to nowhere except Southeast Asia? What about all those Burmese pythons now born and raised stateside? Aren’t they just as native to Florida as are spoonbills, bobcats, and gators?

How many generations until an imported species effectively becomes an indigenous species on par with those that have resided at that location for centuries or millennia? How much longer until Wikipedia should, at long last, stop classifying Burmese pythons in Florida as an “invasive species” and simply start listing Florida—along with Myanmar, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and a number of other Asian nations—among their native habitats?

Speaking of Florida, in the early morning of 12 June 2016, an American individual of Afghan descent named Omar Mir Seddique Mateen opened fire at a nightclub in Orlando, murdering at least 49 patrons and wounding even more, before being taken out by a SWAT team, thus raising the death toll to the number of stars on the American flag.

“This boy didn’t come from anywhere but where he lived, in the United States. This is United States terrorism,” said one of the ladies on The View in reference to the carnage the boy had wreaked.

So because Omar Mir Seddique Mateen was born and raised in the United States, he counts as a “domestic” or “home-grown” terrorist, no different from Timothy McVeigh or Dylann Roof.

But if all American-born terrorists are indeed in every respect equally domestic, regardless of when and whence their forebears splashed ashore, then how come American-born Burmese pythons are still deemed members of an “invasive species”? What makes them so fundamentally different from American-born cottonmouths or diamondbacks? And why do we persist in calling American-born pythons “Burmese pythons” rather than American pythons?

As regards humans, many ethnically sensitive thinkers believe that only Native Americans are truly native to the Americas—hence their appellation—and that, to this day, Americans of European pedigree, including those whose ancestors arrived on the Mayflower, constitute an invasive rather than a domestic species. Where does that leave mere second-generation Afghan-Americans named Omar?

Strictly speaking, of course, Native Americans aren’t native to the Americas, either, as their ancestors reportedly trekked over on foot via the latterly submerged Bering Strait from what’s now Russia. It’s all a matter of how far back one is willing to venture in attempting to define “native” or “indigenous.”

The arguably special status of Native Americans aside, are all natural-born U.S. citizens equally as American as apple pie, or might some be viewed as a bit less American than others, perhaps on account of residual allegiances to certain mores that are about as American as hara-kiri and that haven’t yet been fully superseded by a genuine affinity for baseball games and Motown tunes?

The difficulty of demarcating “native” and “domestic” from “alien” and “invasive” pertains even more prominently to Europe, which, unlike the United States, has never identified as a melting-pot of immigrants.

Exactly how “home-grown” and “domestic” are terrorist attacks on European soil launched by European citizens named Mohammad, Youssef, or Abdul, all of whose families happen to share a fairly recent migration background from Muslim Middle-Eastern or North African nations? Are those attacks just as home-grown and domestic as if they’d been carried out by European citizens named Jacques, Wolfgang, Timothy, or Anders?

The logical corollary of assuming that all crimes committed by citizens of the nation, or league of nations, in which they occur are equally home-grown is to dismiss calls for immigration restrictions or increased border security as utterly quixotic, for the enemy is already inside. The enemy is our own citizens. How can one keep Germans out of Germany, or Belgians out of Belgium? Or Americans out of the U.S., for that matter? Therefore, what would be the point of building walls or fences, literally or otherwise, if we’re under attack from the inside by “our own”?

To postulate more than one degree of domesticity and differentiate by taking into account a perpetrator’s immigration background, by contrast, makes some security challenges instantly appear quite a bit more imported than others, and the specter of admitting horses that one day may turn out to be of the Trojan variety likely alters one’s perspective on how best to meet those challenges.

It all depends, I suppose, on how American American-born Burmese pythons really are, and whether such a python snatching a toddler would be just as home-grown an attack as was that alligator snatching poor 2-year-old Lane at the Disney lagoon.

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  • Richard

    The test is allegiance. A US citizen who sells secrets to an enemy betrays his allegiance, commits a crime and forfeits the state’s protection. Allegiance is the price paid for security.

    Whether a python or an alligator is capable of allegiance to a human institution is an interesting debating point. My guess is that its allegiance is to its own species.

    • Cyberquill

      If being native to a country is proportional to feeling allegiant to it, it means that individuals that have never been to a given country but nonetheless feel allegiant to it are native to that country. How can that be?

      • Richard

        Allegiance can be either by birth or acquired and might be dual or exclusive, I suppose.

        I’m seeking to draw analogies from the concepts of domicile, nationality and residence, none of which apply to pythons and alligators, and denote varying degees of attachment that carry varying privileges and duties.

        Both the human species and species of other animals can be territorial and prone to fight amongst themselves and with other species to gain or retain possession or are content to share. The rejection of an individual by the group also occurs.

        It is assumed that members of the human species are capable of forming intent and that other species are not. Is a python or an alligator capable of intending allegiance to the United States?

        All this is acquiring an unreality. I can’t believe I am discussing the issue in such terms. I must have missed the point of your essay.

      • Cyberquill

        Go to the Wikipedia page on Burmese pythons and scroll down to the section titled Geographic rrange and habitat. A number of Asian countries are listed there.

        Right beneath, there’s the sub-headline “Invasive species” about Burmese pythons in Florida.

        Since these pythons have been living in Florida for decades and seem quite happy there, as they’ve been merrily reproducing all this time, how come they’re still considered an “invasive” species? How many generations until an “invasive” species becomes a de facto native species now considered to live in their natural habitat?

        • Richard

          Would you say an invasive soecies is one that threatens the well-being or existence of the already settled indigenous population? Rabbits in Australia, for example, grey squirrels v. red squirrels in the British Isles, Japanese knotweed, minks v. otters. The common factor is introduction by Man. Like black rats on ships.

        • Richard

          ……Man v. Everything else.
          Mind you, it’s how evolution proceeds. Sooner or later the invasive species gets its come-uppance.

        • Cyberquill

          There’s no such thing as positively invasive then?

          Because whether newcomers impact an extant society in a beneficial or a destructive way seems unrelated to the manner in which they were introduced.

          This, of course, raises the problem of who should get to assess the nature of the impact.

          • Richard

            It depends how you define ‘species’. A good test is whether organisms can breed. If they can, they are of the same species. The introduction of variety is generally deemed good for a species.

            Alas, members of a species tend to diverge under environmental pressures and ultimately cease to breed. Then they become rivals. Sometimes, of course, different species cooperate in their quest to have descendants, the ultimate manifestation of which is symbiosis.

            Man is particularly good at exploiting other species, and indeed members of his own species, to his own advantage. Gradually, he is learning the advantages of preserving as well as exploiting but it is taking a long time.

            The EU seems determined to expunge all evidence of other styles of existence, even within its own structures, and so destroy itself. Harmonisation has come, in effect, to mean the very opposite of what it formerly signified. Why you had to bring politics into it, I really don’t know.

            • Cyberquill

              You probably mean why I had to bring pythons into it. Either way, the answer is that God and I work in mysterious ways.

            • Richard

              Thank you for the compliment.

            • Cyberquill

              Anytime. And Happy Independence Day, now that your country, at long last, has one, too! (Of course, you’ll still have to decide on an exact date, be it June 23rd or the day Article 50 will be triggered.)

            • Richard

              We could have two more plebiscites to decide these burning questions and both could be ignored and we could have another plebiscite about that, and whether that should be ignored …. ; then we would be world leaders on referenda for which there would be a thriving global narket and all our deficit would be removed at a stroke. Then we could have a general election, vote in a spendthrift party, go broke, apply to join the EU and the euro and everything would be back to normal.

            • Cyberquill

              Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton got married and divorced, what, three times? Nothing is final. One day, perhaps, the American colonies will petition to rejoin the British empire. Or the U.S. might adopt England and Wales as its 51st and 52nd states. We’ll see.

            • Richard

              Elizabeth Taylor was born in London. Richard Burton was born in Wales and both made their fortunes in Hollywood.

              Wales voted Leave, London Remain. That is why they divorced and got married again so often.

              It stands to reason, therefore, that the world will realise that Wales is the centre (center) of the film industry -- -- and the deficit will be eliminated.

            • Cyberquill

              Having spawned the likes of Tom Jones and Shakin’ Stevens, Wales has long been the center (centre) of the music business as well.

  • Richard

    I assume you have a keen interest in who will be our next Prime Minister. Why on earth wouldn’t you?

    Do you think Michael Gove is a snake in the grass? He swiftly disposed of Boris Johnson, who was born in the US. Will Andrea Leadsom make a quiet, fatal last-minute attack and gobble up inattentive Theresa May? All survivors are indigenous to the Conservative Party.

    How are politics in Austria going? Are you coping?

    • Cyberquill

      It certainly helps to have lived through this very type of situation before — the Bush v Gore imbroglio in 2000. I’ve become a seasoned election debacle coper. The only difference is that this time, the local Supreme Court has sided with the plaintiff.

      Of course I have a keen interest in who will be your next Prime Minister. Margaret Thatcher having been the first British PM I was consciously aware of when I was a child, I still struggle to accept a man in this role, so I’m very partial to the position being filled with a woman again. Either May or Leadsom will be fine with me.

      I have a feeling Boris Johnson withdrew his candidacy because he’s being vetted as a running mate for Trump. There’s something about his hair that makes me feel the two would make the perfect ticket (assuming he hasn’t renounced his US citizenship yet, in which case he wouldn’t be eligible for the VP slot).

      • Richard

        You’re eligible, aren’t you? Or do you have to be born in the US? What do I do to get you nominated? I believe the pay’s quite good and there are prospects for promotion.

        • Cyberquill

          In order to be eligible for the positions of U.S. president and vice-president, one must be a natural-born U.S. citizen, i.e., either have been born in the U.S., or have been born abroad to a mother who was a U.S. citizen at the time of one’s birth. (Doesn’t work the same with fathers, as this would result in too many individuals claiming to have been casually sired by male U.S. military personnel sowing their wild oats while stationed abroad. The U.S. State Department would have to spend too many resources on authenticating all these paternity claims.)

          The flaw in this constitutional requirement is that it confers eligibility upon someone like Boris Johnson, who, while born in the U.S., has practically no U.S. experience or connection to the U.S. except for having spent the first three months of his life there, but not upon someone that lived in the U.S. his entire life except perhaps for his first minute (if he was born, say, one foot north of the U.S.-Canadian border to a non-U.S. mother and then immediately kicked across the border into the U.S.).

          So in order to get me nominated, you’ll have to help me get a fake birth certificate. Worked for our current president.

          • Richard

            It seems the odds are stacked against you yet again. Is there no justice in this world?

            We have a German MP, Gisela Stewart, who is eligible for PM if she knows how to spell backwards, has no scruple about the separation of powers and gets to be leader of the party that sports a majority in the House of Commons. So I can offer you that position, if you’re interested. There is no objection to you continuing with your musical career: in fact it would be a positive advantage; there are too many career politicians.

            • Cyberquill

              As I said earlier, I view PM as a woman’s job. Even if I were to start transitioning today, I’m not sure I could complete the process by autumn. What I would love to be, though, is the guy in the black robe whose job it is to scream “Order!” in your House of Commons. Any chance that position will open up anytime soon?

            • Richard

              Well. you’ve been proved right yet again.

              I’ll keep you in mind for Speaker. Only relatively recently were the long-bottomed wig and the gaiters abandoned without my permission. What would your attitude be to their revival? Do you accept the authority of the mace? Will you be reluctant as you take your seat on the first occasion and require manhandling by your fellow MPs? Failure to do so could render you unsuitable for election. Consider your answers very carefully.

            • Cyberquill

              Election? I don’t want to be elected. I’m not very good at having to ingratiate myself with others. I’d prefer to be appointed. Then I’ll figure out the operational details in my first few months on the job. Just let me know when I can start, because I’ll have to move to London the day before at the latest.

            • Richard

              You’ll have to apply to the European Court of Justice to be appointed rather than elected. I will represent you, for a fee.

            • Cyberquill

              Fee? Fie!

            • Richard

              It may be embarrassing for you but I shall complete your quote from Jack and the Beanstalk :

              Fee Fie Fo Fum
              I smell the blood of an ENGLISHMAN

              I can read these hidden messages, you know.

            • Cyberquill

              Fee Fie Foe Fear
              I smell the blood of a Brexiteer
              Be he joyful or contrite
              A lady is his Prime tonight!

            • Richard

              There once was a fellow called Boris,
              Whose quips are the ultimate horrors.
              Can he cause such outrage
              On a shaky world stage
              Will collapse, Armaggedon, wait for us?

            • Cyberquill

              There’s also a fellow named Trump,
              Like Boris, a chap off his chump,
              Who likewise possesses
              Peculiar tresses,
              And many a rightist goes mugwump.

            • Richard

              There once was a fellow called Boris
              Who knew a young lady called Doris
              The tone he evinced
              When others just winced
              Shook the world as he played on her clavier

            • Cyberquill

              My poetic powers are exhausted now.

            • Richard

              Me too. I just couldn’t rhyme that last line.

            • Cyberquill

              Morris. The last line should end “every Tom, Dick, and Morris.”

            • Richard

              Very good. But it does have a familiar ring to it. Um. Every Tom Dick and .. um .. er

              No. Memory fails me. You win.

              Shook the world as he played on her clavier Tom, Dick and Morris.

              Yeah. Great. Thanks.

              (What’s a Morris?)

            • Cyberquill

              Every Tom, Dick, and Harry. Morris, too, is a male first name. And you weren’t supposed to simply stick the alternate ending onto yours with zero regard for meter an meaning but do a substitution, then modify the two previous lines so as to ensure narrational coherence, e.g.:

              There once was a fellow called Boris
              Who knew a lady called Doris
              He knew her friend Mary
              He also knew Harry
              And then every Tom, Dick, and Morris.

              Assuming the OT meaning of “know,” the poem takes on a nice Sodom-ian character, the implicit fire & brimstone allusion dovetailing nicely with your Armageddon motif from one of your earlier verses.

            • Richard

              Poetic licence. Dovetails nicely with clavier.

            • Cyberquill

              Dovetails also go nicely with caviar.

            • Richard

              Go native with sturgeon!

              Dovetails nicely with pythons.

            • Cyberquill

              Pythons. Right. This post had something to do with pythons.

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