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South Florida’s ecosystem has been trying to fend off an onslaught of non-native tropical animals, most notably the fearsome Burmese python, an apex predator from the haunted jungles of Southeast Asia. Internet surfers and reptile enthusiasts might remember the dramatic photo of a 13 foot python which burst open after trying to swallow a live 6 foot alligator whole.
Florida’s native birds, lapdogs, toddlers, and alligators will therefore rejoice at the past winter’s severity, which put a big dent in the python population (and left other non-native fish and reptiles frozen stiff across the state). Pythons fall into a catatonic stupor if temperatures plunge too low. In the depths of January when the mercury dipped into the thirties, rangers reported finding live snakes being methodically devoured by vultures. Homeowners were shocked by all of the iguana-cicles falling out of ornamental trees. Spring and summer will reveal how badly the invaders have been set back in comparison with Florida’s cold-tolerant native species.