I recently read my daughter a bedtime story (for the 987th time) which centered on a young dragon taken in by Princess Aurora (of Sleeping Beauty fame). Starting with her husband, Prince Phillip, and continuing with each encounter with the story’s other characters Aurora is met with storybook disdain for her new pet. The universal reason: dragons are dangerous. The dragon, in an effort to fit in, tries to emulate other animals who do not suffer the same unearned contempt. But dragons are what dragons are and each attempt to be something he is not leads to moments of chaos involving, as you might guess, fire. It’s not until the end of the story that the dragon comes to terms with what he is and finds a place in the life of the story.
None of the characters in the story offered anecdotal evidence as to why dragons are dangerous; they just knew them to be so.
In February 2008 the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a map showing the possible range of the burmese python in the southern United States. The maps shows Burmese pythons extending as for north as Virgnia on the east coast (and all the way to west to California). Being a resident of southeast Virginia for the past 15 years I can tell you without reservation that this is absolutely ridiculous. The map and the report submitted to support it are false. They are driven by fear and special interest motivations to end the reptile pet trade in the United States.
It vexes me how this type of false science is allowed to be released under the banner of a supposedly legitimate scientific organization. Doing so decreases the credibility of their legitimate works. Hey USGS, here’s a little nugget of information for you: the United States is a temperate region. That means we have something called seasons. Yeah, it’s warm enough to support an escaped Burmese python in the summer but the fall and winter will kill them faster than any Python Recovery Team you might want to assemble. Burmese pythons are from Southeast Asia (vast portions of which are a tropical region) and according to the book The Physical Geography of Southeast Asia, (screen shot here) annual temperature range in southeast asia is small, not more than 5 degrees (C) annually. Click here for a graph that shows annual temperatures in Vietnam (southeast Asia). That means that the same summer climate that supports Burmese in their native habitat is pretty much an all year thing, kind of like it is in the Florida Everglades. Take a quick drive north on I-95 to northern Florida and you’ll notice that it gets very cold in the winter. And guess what! Cold weather and snakes don’t go together. Every single reptile that lives on the east coast north of the florida everglades brumates to pass the winter; all of them. Guess what? Burmese pythons don’t brumate in cold weather. Know what they do? They die. Anybody who has ever kept Burmese pythons knows that they will get a sick at the drop of a hat. Keep your temps a little bit wrong and they will be hacking snot all over the glass of their locked enclosures.
I am disappointed in the USGS and the people who will let them submit falsehood as truth. The USGS slogan reads, “Science for a Changing World”. It should read, “Science for Changing the World”.