This is a great article from the San Francisco Chronicle – according to USGS predictions, exotic Burmese pythons (which have established in the Florida Everglades and can move as much as 20 miles a month) could make it to California as soon as 2020. Californians – run for the hills!
The top map shows current suitable habitat for Burmese pythons in the US, while the lower one is a projection for 2100.
While I hoping that the article is intentionally funny, it does touch on some interesting things. A large population of Burmese pythons has become established in the Florida Everglades.
People tend to think of south Florida’s problems with exotic tropical wildlife as unique, but as the USGS maps show, there’s an awful lot of suitable habitat for pythons all across the US. No one is expecting a rapid spread, but it isn’t a lack of suitable habitat that’s stopping them from spreading. More to the point though is the fact that anywhere within the green area, there’s a potential for escaped or abandoned pets to become established. It’s a problem that will only become worse as the climate warms.
Update: R. Alexander Pyron and colleagues at the City University of New York disagree with the predictions of the USGS models. Using niche modelling, they predict a far smaller distribution for Burmese pythons – southern Florida and the southern tip of Texas at present, and southern Florida and parts of the Pacific Northwest in the future.