Pythons on the Loose!

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," October 12, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Back of the Book" segment tonight, according to The Miami Herald, the National Park Service has captured 156 pythons (search) in the Everglades over the past two years. Pythons are not indigenous to the USA, but apparently are all over the place near the glades.

Now, last weekend, a python ate a cat in the town of Miami Gardens, and another snake tried to eat an alligator. That snake actually exploded trying to do that.

This comes on the heels of the monitor lizard situation on the west coast of Florida. These things are from Africa. But a bunch of them have now made the Sunshine State their habitat. Imagine running into that swimming.

Joining us now from Miami is wildlife biologist Joe Wasilewski.

Joe, poor Frances the cat, 15-pound Siamese, running around in Miami Gardens...


O'REILLY: Yes. A python eats poor Frances? I mean, what's going on?

WASILEWSKI: Well, I'm sorry about that for Frances, but, you know, the cat probably should have been inside anyway.

O'REILLY: Well, what if it was a kid, though? What if it was a little kid?

WASILEWSKI: Well, the python is more in tune to animals with fur and raccoons, possums, and a cat and/or a dog.

O'REILLY: Yes, but Miami Gardens, I mean, you know, come on. That's not Everglade City. That's where people...


O'REILLY: Those are the 'burbs.

WASILEWSKI: Well, that was probably an animal that either escaped or was released. And judging from the timing of all of this between the python in the Everglades eating the alligator, there could have been someone that saw this story and said, "I need to get rid of this thing," and just dumped it.

O'REILLY: On the day before — the day after Frances lost his life, another python slithered into a farm in Dade County. That's Miami. And ate a turkey, apparently feeling that Thanksgiving was this month instead of next.

WASILEWSKI: True. Well, that was an African python, which we really haven't recorded down here. And, again, that was in, like, a rural area. So there's really two problems, and it's the urban exotic wildlife, and it's the exotic pythons that are in the Everglades proper.

O'REILLY: Now, the problem here for Floridians is that you have an exotic pet industry, and you have that in a lot of places in the USA, where you can buy these things, it's legal to actually buy pythons and anacondas and everything else, and then when you get sick of them or you can't handle them anymore, you dump them in the glades. Is that what's happening?

WASILEWSKI: Well, it's bigger than that. It's actually a worldwide problem, but it's accentuated here in Florida because of the climate. Now, I can tell you that Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, who regulates this, has a statute. It's 325.162, that prohibits releasing exotic wildlife.

O'REILLY: Yes, but so, who's going to know? I mean, you drive out to the glades at night. You dump the thing out the window.

We've got a picture of you holding this Nile Monitor Lizard. Now this thing is actually swimming off the coast of Captiva, which is a very swanky resort.


O'REILLY: I mean, can you imagine if you're, you know, snorkeling a little bit, and there it is saying, "Hey, this is my turf"? But that could happen.

WASILEWSKI: It's happening, and it's happening more and more with more and more frequency. Right.

O'REILLY: This is not good for the Florida tourist business, I don't think. Is it?

WASILEWSKI: Well, I don't know if it's going to hurt the tourist industry. But it's certainly going to hurt other aspects of the state. You know, ecologically speaking. And we need to get a handle on it. That's for sure.

O'REILLY: How do you do that, though? How do you go into the glades, thousands of miles of wilderness, and track down pythons? How do you do it?

WASILEWSKI: Well, people have been working at it at the Everglades National Park for a couple of years now, and there are methods to actually trap these animals. And we really don't know to what degree they're there. We don't know what the population is.

O'REILLY: No. You caught 156 of them, but there could be 15,000 of them out there.

WASILEWSKI: Could be. We have no idea yet. But — but we're willing to go in and try and get a handle on it and get rid of them.

O'REILLY: Well, I don't think you're going to get rid of them. And I think everybody, and this is to be serious, with pets and little kids in Florida, with the gators, the lizards and the pythons and everything else floating around out there, you've got to be careful. You've got to fence your yard and you've got to watch.

Joe, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

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