Burmese pythons headed for Tennessee?

I don’t like snakes, but I love snake stories. While reading the April 20, 2009 edition of The New Yorker, however, I learned one potential Tennessee snake story that absolutely gives me the chills: Burmese pythons, which can grow to 20 feet or longer, have established themselves in South Florida, and could, over time, make their way to Tennessee.

skip-snowThe photo above is a python held by Skip Snow, a wildlife biologist in Everglades National Park, who is quoted extensively in The New Yorker piece, which was written by Burkhard Bilger. You can hear Bilger talking about his article here.

Here’s the scary part, with my emphasis: “Roughly a third of the contiguous United States lies within the python’s range, they (US Geological Survey zoologists) concluded, including all the Southern states and large portions of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.”

I hope I never live to see that day. The pythons are apparently very adaptable critters, and one wonders how the Holiness church snake handlers of East Tennessee and elsewhere will adapt to these monsters. All I can say is that if I ever to come face to face with a Burmese python in the wild–Tennessee or anywhere else–I will most assuredly start talking in tongues on the spot.

This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.

12 Responses to Burmese pythons headed for Tennessee?

  1. Truman says:

    Something has to constrict the kudzu.

  2. More snake in the road lore: On a hike in Texas, Ed and I came upon a rattle snake. Not that we knew it was a rattlesnake. We were stopped by a loud and twangy Park Ranger: “Rattlesnake!” he said, “uglier and meaner than I am.” We came closer, figuring a tough old ranger like that one had the beast under control. But he warned us back, “ain’t worth losin’ a leg over.” That’s our secret password now, what we say whenever we see danger ahead in our marriage.

  3. WJO says:

    Chestnut blight, kudzu, boa constrictors. Is there anything else we can import from Asia to “improve” East Tennessee?

  4. shas says:

    I almost stepped on an enormous snake behind my house about 1.5 years ago. It was super fat and had a distinct pattern on it. I didnt stick around long enough to see how long or what kind it was. I just have that memory of a fat snake, maybe 5 inches in diameter. I looked online and tried to figure it out to no avail. Honestly, the size makes me wonder if it could have been a python. Yes, I live in Tennessee.

    • Nicko says:

      I know this comment is old, but I had a similar experience when I was a kid probably near 20 years ago on my family’s farm. I was riding a motorcycle down a lane between a wood lot and wheat field. I came upon what I though was a fallen tree limb, until I was about 10 feet away. I ran it over, shit my pants, and rode around the back fields scared to go back home; as I had to cross the same spot to do so. I have never seen one as big again and I have never talked to anyone that has seen one that big in person until you. I have done research and asked and no ‘native’ snake grows to that size. The snake I encountered was at minimum 15 feet long. I couldnt see the head or tail and was at least 4 to 5 inches in diameter. It was darker colored. My motorcycle got airborne when I hit it, again as I thought it was a down limb. Still baffles me to this day, but cool to see someone has experienced it.

  5. levi kautz says:

    send me pictures of snakes constantly! keep finden them snakes

  6. Aaron says:

    It seems that you don’t understand this snake to well. The Burmese Python is a snake that has to have warm temperatures year round to live. The Everglades just happens to be the perfect environment for these snakes, the cold that we get in Tennessee would kill these snakes out. So until this state turns into an area that keeps temperatures no lower than 70 year round, these snakes won’t ever be able to survive out in the wild here.

  7. Diana McCaleb says:

    Thank you Aaron, couldn’t have said it better myself!

  8. I have been teaching a category and that we are looking at this kind of
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  9. Debbie says:

    My son is an avid snake lover and a walking encyclopedia on the subject. A few summers ago he was along a creek near our home in Rogersville,Tennessee searching for snakes when he spotted a very large yellow snake swimming downstream. The sight sent him running home and away from creek for quiet a while. He said the only possible snake for that size/color/pattern was a python and that he was sure that the snake he saw was not indigenous to our area. He assumed someone’s pet had gotten loose,
    I wish I had known to call animal control or something and hope it didn’t survive winter.

  10. Shawn says:

    Media hype reporting incorrect “science”. As a former Burmese Python breeder need to understand that Burmese pythons, and any of the large constrictors for that matter, are not biologically capable of establishing anywhere north of extreme Southern Florida in the continental 48. Once temps fall below 70 F, they get sick and die rather quickly. Furthermore, the evolution necessary to allow them to survive in cooler temps would take tens of thousands of years, not a few.

    As an avid herpetoculturist, this fear mongering on species we have been told to fear and hate since we were born is not new. They may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but before we all jump on the “kill” bandwagon…seek to understand the animal you’re persecuting. Opinions are not facts.

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