Pythons in the Everglades & The Mass Media

Once again Shawn Heflick of Python Hunters gave us permission to run this here so as to spread the word. Here are his guidelines

OK Everyone, here is a cheat sheet for the issues involving the Python/Mammal Study. I am doing this because there are a number of people speaking to the media that don’t understand what they are saying and are making a bugger of the issue. I know they mean well and for that I applaud their enthusiasm. It would be great if they realized they don’t have a good grasp on the issue and thus not really prepared to speak about it, but I know that is a pipe dream. So here is a cheat sheet so it is a little more clear and hopefully they can speak with a bit more education about the topic.

One of the first premises of science/research (in laymen’s terms…no offense) is that you try and account for every other possible factor that could be acting upon the problem at hand. When you have whittled down the other factors you can then start to consider your hypothesis (educated guess) and the weight with which it plays upon the problem. Before this is done, you typically would not even propose to publish or put forth your hypothesis in a formal format. I know the authors of this study know this and some are vetted scientists, and this is why I am a bit riled about this study/publication.

Here is a list of some of the OTHER FACTORS that were presumably NOT CONSIDERED or EVEN MENTIONED:

Natural Hydrological Cycle (Water Cycle). Semi-drought conditions for the last decade.

Affects of high Mercury Levels.

Fire Regimes.

General Water Pollution.

Increased Alligator Population.

2 Record low winters with Hard FREEZE.

Change in Water Regimes (man-made).

Natural Cycles in Populations…Rabbits (7-10yrs), Deer, etc.

Top Down role of deer populations in ecological regimes (plant dynamics, etc) and effects on other taxonomic groups.

How can the other predator numbers increase if prey populations have plummeted?

Increase in coyote populations state wide.

Why are rabbit populations down in the extralimital areas where there are no pythons?

No mention of Feral Cats (FWC estimates 10-15 million in the state of Florida).

No mention of feral pigs.

What about Bird of Prey populations?

Have vulture and other scavenger populations increased? COYOTES?!

Tourist traffic patterns…increase/decrease?

Have mammals learned avoidance with regard to vehicle traffic?

Have speed limits decreased in the ENP?

Have more education/signage been implemented to slow visitors or make them more aware?

Did not reconcile the reported “Population Explosion” of Raccoons in Flamingo Campground with the 2 sightings of raccoons in the same year within the park?

You cannot use 1 year as a baseline for population studies!!!

No Statistical Analysis of the data .

I’ll stop there so it is not too much to digest. IF YOU NEED HELP JUST ASK ME and I‘ll gladly give some guidance.

Shawn K. Heflick, MS
Conservation Biologist