Inane act of the year award winner!

This clever woman found a snake in her back yard.  Her very bizarre response was to throw gasoline on it and light it on fire.  It predictably ran way, set a pile of leaves on fire, which then set her house on fire.  Her house was completely destroyed, and part of her neighbor’s house was destroyed.  I’m really not sure anybody will be able to beat this in terms of stupidity this year!

Here’s the story: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/woman-house-burned-down-snake-she-set-fire-182236352.html

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Brisbane Times: Python tried to kill my son

A friend of mine sent me this link: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/a-python-tried-to-kill-my-son-mother-20120101-1pgxg.html – Thanks Mike 🙂

As I’m the local reptile expert, he asked me if I believed the story (we all know that the media would never lie or get anything wrong, right?).  I said yes, and made some other pithy comments on various excerpts from the story.  Here they are for your enjoyment:

Yea, I’d believe it.  My guess is that this would be a carpet python.  The largest I’ve ever heard of is 8ft (I owned one that big) but they usually top out at 6ft.  They are native to Australia, and when hungry they can be somewhat less than selective and will strike at anything warm that moves.  They aren’t really very bright.

"He just screamed only once and I just grabbed him and tried pulling the snake off but I couldn't budge it."

This is dumb – it’s not difficult to uncoil a snake.  Start at the tail and unwind it – they have very little ability to stop you doing that.  If you start at the head, that’s a different story.

Mr Tunnie grabbed the snake's head and squeezed as hard as he could before he began unwinding the python from Kye's body.

Head squeezing? Pointless.  Start at the tail – geez.

The snake then turned on Mr Tunnie and wrapped around his arm, cutting off circulation.

ROFL – oh, waaaaa – for an adult, a carpet python isn’t big or strong enough to do any appreciable damage.

Kye had to be revived twice after he passed out en route to Mossman Hospital, and later stopped breathing while being transferred to Cairns Base Hospital.

This is where education would have been very helpful.  If they had done the right thing to start with, the kid would have suffered only a bite, which goes away in less than a week.

A test for venom came back negative and X-rays revealed the snake had not crushed Kye's ribs.

Venom?  LOL! Pythons don’t have venom!  Also, constrictors do NOT break bones, even in small rats and so forth (which are much weaker than human bones).  What they do is to constrict the rib cage, then when the prey breathes out, they apply enough pressure to stop the prey from being able to breathe in again.

He was released from hospital the following day with four bite marks and bruising to his lower leg.

Yea, typical minor stuff.

However, two days later the toddler was waving goodbye to his deadly attacker as he watched a snake-catcher release the python into rainforest.

"Bye bye, Bitey," the toddler called as the snake wound itself up a tree.

I’m really glad they didn’t kill the snake (in the US, they would have, because they are usually idiots).  Kids are remarkably resilient, eh?

USGS Constrictor report – ineptitude or unethical practices?

Newsletter from the United States Association of Reptile Keepers: [added emphasis mine]

The Wildlife Research Center of the US Department of Agriculture has recently released a peer reviewed scientific paper in Biological Invasions that casts serious doubt on wild claims made by the US Geological Survey that Burmese pythons are poised to spread out of South Florida. –Avery, M., Engeman, R., Keacher, K., Humphrey, J., Bruce, W., Mathies, T., & Mauldin, R. (2010). Cold weather and the potential range of invasive Burmese pythons, Biological Invasions, DOI: 10.1007/s10530-010-9761-4

In an in-house “Open Report” produced by the USGS (Giant Constrictors: Biological and Management Profiles and an Establishment Risk Assessment for Nine Large Species of Pythons, Anacondas, and the Boa Constrictor) authors Gordon Rodda and Robert Reed claim that the risk is high that Burmese pythons will quickly spread across the southern third of the United States; as far north as the Chesapeake Bay, Ohio Valley and San Francisco Bay.

A panel of independent scientists has criticized the report as, “not a bona-fide ‘scientific’ paper that has gone through external peer review”. Scientists further characterized the report as “not suitable as the basis for legislative or regulatory policies, as its content is not based on best science practices”.

USARK has filed a 36 page Request for Correction under the Information Quality Act demanding a response to 16 serious errors, inaccuracies and mischaracterizations within the report. The Constrictor Report is the sole justification for two federal bills and regulatory rule change that would add Burmese pythons and 8 other constrictors to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act.

Now in a paper entitled, Cold weather and the potential range of invasive Burmese pythons, published in a refereed scientific journal called Biological Invasions, scientists question the rash conclusions of Rodda & Reed. 7 of 9 Burmese pythons captured from Everglades National Park and held in outdoor enclosures with heated refugia died in the cold last winter at the USDA facility in Gainesville, FL. One of the authors of the new paper, Michael Avery says, "Our empirical observations cast doubt that Burmese pythons can become established and persist beyond the southern portion of the Florida peninsula."

Currently Burmese pythons are thought to be established in an area restricted to 3 counties of south Florida. Estimates on the die off after the cold winter range from 50%- 90%. Anecdotally no pythons have been found since mid March. This new peer reviewed paper is just one more independent piece of evidence debunking the extremely poor work fielded by USGS on the python invasion question. It begs question of ineptitude or unethical practices on the part of USGS producing questionable science with speculative conclusions on the taxpayer dime with little supporting data.

Click here to read press release in Conservation Maven.

[Tim’s note] I find it very disturbing that our governmental agencies adopt such a slipshod and inaccurate assessment of the situation and then proceed to try to make laws based on these assumptions.  The laws they are talking about making will disrupt the livelihoods of many breeders, pet stores, and pet supply industries.  This is not something that should be done with such a cavalier attitude.

Inane Guberment

The following is from Cliff Earle, a fellow herpetologist who has been keeping tabs on the ridiculous S-373 legislation which threatens to severely impact the reptile pet industry. In the rabid banner waving, and ill-informed statements from the media through foam flecked lips, it seems that logic and reason has simply been exchanged for fear and crowd-mind.

In a very PETA-esque stance, our legislators appear to be throwing very misguided legislation at a problem which already exists, heedless of the impact to jobs and careers many in the pet trade will have to suffer.  It’s also sad to think that if these fools have their way, children in years to come might not be able to experience the joy and education which comes with close contact with animals (specifically reptiles, in this case, but who knows how long it will take before this extends to furry animals).  I have taken the liberty to hilight a few things in his letter.


This originally started as a response in Florida to the problem with escaped pet snakes thriving in the

There is a lot here, I admit — it’s been a crazy week. Pick and chose your battles from the below, with S-373 and the CA issue at the top of your list.

Legislation

Federal

As most of you probably saw in the US ARK post last night, “The United States House Committee on Natural Resources is preparing for a March 23rd oversight hearing on invasive species, specifically snakes. This will be a joint hearing between the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands and the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife. The hearing has not been formally announced yet, but we are told it will focus on the Lacey Act and whether this law is an effective method to control invasive species, particularly constrictor snakes.” This is basically the House side of the Senate’s S-373 bill.

Digging a bit, I found that committee has 49 members — of which a full 7 are Californian politicians. Those members are, in district order:
–Tom McClintock (R), CA 04 (member of National Parks)
–George Miller (D), CA 07
–Jim Costa (D), CA 20
–Lois Capps (D), CA 23 (member of National Parks *and* Insular Affairs)
–Elton Gallegly (R), CA 24 (member of National Parks)
–Grace Napolitano (D), CA 38 (member of National Parks)
–Joe Baca (D), CA 43

For everyone, they can be contacted through the committee’s website at http://resourcescommittee.house.gov. Hit them up with a form letter *before* the meeting, so that they know going in where their voter base stands! For team leaders, please make sure to prioritize meetings with those seven House members.

California

PIJAC, another organization gearing up to fight the California proposed rules, has suggested we start a letter writing campaign directed at the individual members of the DFG Commission.

Those members are as follows:
–President Jim Kellogg
–Richard B. Rogers
–Michael Sutton
–Daniel W. Richards
–Donald Benninghoven

They can be reached at:
California Fish and Game Commission
1416 Ninth Street
P.O. Box 944209
Sacramento, CA 94244-2090

In addition, our side needs to start gathering scientific data on the frog species we collectively know about. For example, minimum/maximum temperatures tolerated by a species or any other environmental data that will support the fact they are not invasive. If our side can gather any data at all, we will be far ahead of the DFG, who are legislating based on a complete lack of supporting science. (Those who are members of forums, please post a call for support there as well.)

Florida

Several news sources have reported that Florida’s FWC Chairman plans to “remain tough” on snakes. In his own misguided words: “The state of Florida has taken the lead on this issue. We should be considering an outright ban. It is paramount that we keep doing everything we can to keep these animals out of the wild.” I’m not sure how he equates a ban with improving keeping snakes out of the wild, but he does. Read the full story at http://www.chipleypaper.com/sports/span-5421-height-style.html, then send feedback and the other side of the story to the paper’s editor, Jay Felsberg, and to the seven Commissioners here: http://myfwc.com/CONTACT/Contact_commissioners.htm.

Media

The New York Times has joined the chorus of outlets printing bad data. They have weighed in on PBS’s horrid “Invasion of the Giant Pythons” – and with glowing words. I have a background is journalism education-wise, and the NYT is both big news and often taken as gospel — which means the press credibility line has now been crossed, and we *all* need to weigh in and educate them least we lose the publicity war for good.

A few choice quotes to give you the flavor:

“Flying into Florida for a winter vacation? If you look out the plane window once you’re near your destination and the ground seems to be writhing, it’s because the entire state is covered with pythons.”

“The program’s narration, given an extra jolt via the vocal talents of F. Murray Abraham, keeps referring to ‘the python army.’ “

“But it turns out that not all of the blame for the infestation lies with pet owners who have released their pythons into the wild. Some got there courtesy of hurricanes that wrecked exotic-pet warehouses.” [Emphasis added by Cliff.]

“If you’re already in Florida watching this program, you may find it too unsettling and feel the urge to change the channel. Be careful, though, as you’re poking between the couch cushions looking for the remote. Python.”

The article — sadly titled “They’re Big and Ready to Eat Florida” — can be read here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/20/arts/television/20pythons.html.

The author can be reached here: http://www.nytimes.com/gst/emailus.html. The editor can be reached here: letters@nytimes.com. The paper can be called here: (212) 556-1234. Please cover all three. Ask them politely to cover the other side “in the interest of fairness and balance,” and put teeth in the request: if you subscribe, threaten to cancel; if you don’t, tell them you never will; and tell them you will advise your friends and acquaintances accordingly. We need to hit this hard.

BTW, the program (I’m told – it is not one of the channels I receive) was not as bad as feared. But you can submit a respectful comment or question anyway here: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/invasion-of-the-giant-pythons/herpetologist-shawn-heflick-answers-your-questions/5564/. It is my understanding that several of these will be answered on-line during the pending week.

Thank you as always,
Cliff Earle