Florida’s Python Predicament

Jonathan Vandina

burmese_pythonIt’s 4 PM. The hot Florida sun has warmed the thermo regulated American alligator (Alligator missipiensis) with the ability to satisfy its day long hunger. The tiny touch receptors on the mouth of the apex predator feel an unexpected yet familiar sensation. It’s a slight ripple, a change in water motion coming from the shore. In the mangroves a sub-adult raccoon is cautiously entering the water. The gator sees it. With only its eyes and nostrils protruding from the water it slowly makes its way over to the raccoon as quiet and inconspicuous as a branch caught in the current.  It’s within 8 feet now. The raccoon is playfully digging up shellfish oblivious to the imminent danger. Four feet now, then two then WHAM! An invasive 9 foot Southeast Asian Burmese python (Python bivittatus) strikes from an above hanging mangrove. The gator stops and watches as this alien predator constricts, suffocates, and swallows its long sought after meal. The weather has cooled down. The gators body temperature and energy levels are too low to attack another meal. It will not feed today. What now?

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