Overall setting -- "loosely future Earth," say a hundred years from now, with plausible levels of realism (doesn't have to be perfect, but should feel familiar and match intuition). Climate change was not averted, sea levels rose, technology fell back somewhat (due to reductions in population, social upheaval, and so on) but the living memory of what was, still remains.

But this story takes place in Miami FL (or some other coastal city with similar characteristics). The median elevation of Miami, according to google, is about 6 feet -- so if we get 30 feet of sea level rise, the ground is underwater, but most of the taller buildings are still "dry," with only the bottom few floors submerged.

We'll handwave and say something was invented to treat the concrete in those buildings, so they're still standing, although everything in them was ruined. But I want to use these handwave credits as rarely as possible.

Now what I really want is for a small population of people to live in the upper floors of these skyscrapers, doing light aquaculture and basically just having a new and peaceful start, including the little society being stable enough to raise children. I think I understand how they can get fresh water (solar still) and keep out of the elements, but what I'm stuck on is the predators.

Pythons fill the Everglades and are just completely terrifying. I think I could believe that alligators can't climb stairs, but pythons can climb anything, swim for miles, and are just completely silent until they're, you know, eating your kids in their sleep. Not great!

So, uh, how do I keep pythons out in this situation? The "housing" is more or less open-to-the-breeze, since the windows and so on would be completely blown out decades ago, so I wouldn't think you could physically keep them out. I could hand-wave and say a snake repulsion system was invented, but it doesn't seem as plausible as "the concrete was hurricane-proofed and strengthened" and I'd rather come up with something more plausible, and preferably something that can be done in a straightforward manner by the people currently living there.

(I will say pythons is what I'm most worried about, and to a lesser extent other snakes, but there are plenty of other pests that could conceivably take up residence in these buildings and make them hard to inhabit for a peaceful human society)

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    $\begingroup$ Pythons are nothing compared to the mosquitos this standing water would produce. $\endgroup$ Apr 28, 2023 at 7:32
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    $\begingroup$ i'll admit that reading through out these answers i can't not think of python as in the programming language. That really changes everything. $\endgroup$
    – bracco23
    Apr 28, 2023 at 9:41
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    $\begingroup$ When the buildings are first swamped, the problem will be the rats, not pythons. Over time, some buildings will be cleared of rats and other vermin which will keep the pythons out. Buildings that are still filled with rats will attract the snakes. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Apr 28, 2023 at 14:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Kevin Kostlan Neither pythons nor mosquitos are denizens of salt water. There will be sharks and the occasional crocodile or moray eel, but mostly the water in the lower floors of the building will be fish and invertebrates. Without sunlight, except through the busted windows, it will not be a good environment. Most food for animals would come through the windows by currents and tides. The OP needs to consider that this is the ocean not the Everglades. $\endgroup$
    – Wastrel
    Apr 28, 2023 at 14:46
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    $\begingroup$ OP is very aware of the salt water situation. The fact that the mosquitos will all be dead was actually the original appeal of the setting. However assuming the Everglades aren’t under (sea) water they’ll still have a viable ecosystem, and probably stronger without all the people messing with it. Some of those critters will swim East to hunt. Pythons are known to have this behavior in Southeast Asia (although maybe I’ve overestimated its likelihood) $\endgroup$ Apr 28, 2023 at 18:46

8 Answers 8


What's the actual problem? It doesn't sound like these are mutant super-pythons, just regular ones. Hundreds of millions of people live in areas with lots of deadly snakes. Consider rural India. They do just fine. If there's a deadly snake in your house, you run away or you kill it with a shovel or something. Or a pet mongoose. Occasionally someone will die to a snake, but that doesn't disrupt their way of life. Also, doors exist, and you can board up windows or nail chicken wire across them. Or build enclosed snake-proof houses inside the skyscraper.

Sure, snakes can climb the skyscraper. If they're really motivated and all the windows are blown out, they can coil around the open window frames (assuming the remaining shards of broken glass in the frames don't stop them). But it's really high and a lot of work. And why would the snake go to that effort and trouble, when there's plenty of prey down in the wetlands, and not much in the skyscraper until you get to the humans on the upper stories, who will actually just kill the snake? Probably not too many snakes would bother to go up that high.

  • $\begingroup$ rarehistoricalphotos.com/history-baby-cage-1934-1948 $\endgroup$
    – biziclop
    Apr 27, 2023 at 14:45
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    $\begingroup$ This is an interesting point. If I saw a wild python I might conclude that the area was not suitable for habitation. But after the collapse of society you might be more flexible as to what constitutes acceptable living conditions. And of course people do deal with this. It's a good point, thank you. $\endgroup$ Apr 27, 2023 at 15:17
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    $\begingroup$ One thing you are missing, in rural India, not only do they kill the snake with a shovel. They then proceed to skin and eat it. Snake apparently makes for pretty good eating. And Snake skin makes for some pretty cool looking belts. $\endgroup$
    – Questor
    Apr 27, 2023 at 19:14
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    $\begingroup$ I’ll likely accept this answer but I’m holding off for a bit since the question is still attracting really high quality answers. Thank you! $\endgroup$ Apr 28, 2023 at 21:31
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    $\begingroup$ there will likely be a LOT of birds nesting in your buildings, plenty of reason for snakes to go there. $\endgroup$
    – John
    May 1, 2023 at 21:00

Pythons are a total non-issue.

Human fatalities from non-venomous snakes are exceedingly rare, on the order of single digits worldwide annually. Many incidents involve captive snakes, that is, people who are killed by snakes that they are purposefully in close contact with. In the US, you are many times more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a non-venomous snake.

According to the USGS, there is not even a single documented case of a human being killed by a wild python in Florida. The notion that a wild python will slip through your window and eat your kid is complete fantasy - you're trying to prevent something that has literally never occurred.

Living in a flooded, dilapidated skyscraper in a setting of post-societal collapse, you have far better things to worry about than snakes. It's not even worth addressing, you're probably more likely to die by trying to board up the windows and getting a cut that becomes infected.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, snakes will provide an occasional extra source of protein, the bigger worry is the erosion of the (submerged) land that will cause the skyscraper to collapse because there's nothing solid for the handwavium concrete to be anchored securely in. Suggest reading John D. MacDonals's book Condominium, written all the way back in 1977, which goes into how dodgy much of Florida was/is for construction even without climate change bringing the sea levels way up. $\endgroup$ Apr 27, 2023 at 23:02
  • $\begingroup$ Gotta disagree a bit with the statistics here. The rate of snake death is very low in the US because, as a society, we’ve solved this problem. In situations where things start to fall apart (eg flooding after a hurricane) they become much more of a serious threat, as well as in a situation where they’re more dominant species (eg unsettled bits of the Everglades). Death rate is low because people have the good sense not to go there. $\endgroup$ Apr 28, 2023 at 23:23
  • $\begingroup$ That being said, the lack of basic medical care is certainly a serious concern, just not what the question is about. $\endgroup$ Apr 28, 2023 at 23:25
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    $\begingroup$ @RichardRast Deaths due to large non-venomous snakes aren't a major issue even in far less developed parts of the world - the death rate is low everywhere, not just the US. Even if I've underestimated the risk here by a factor of a thousand, we're still in lightning strike probability range. No human has ever been killed in Florida by a wild python. $\endgroup$ May 1, 2023 at 13:12


First I'll echo other answers in saying that pythons aren't really a threat to people living in a partially submerged skyscraper. This is because:

  1. Pythons are slow ambush predators. This is quite easy to guard against when the humans control the terrain.
  2. The pythons would need other prey nearby to have a reason to try to infiltrate the buildings in order to be a problem. While they could climb the building, doesn't mean that they will.
  3. Only the largest pythons could be successful in eating even a small human.
  4. Being aware of the danger will be sufficient to protect the majority of the population.

All that being said, snakes hate the smell of ammonia. Just having a floor where the humans soak the rugs with an ammonia based cleaner will be enough to get most snakes to go somewhere else.

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    $\begingroup$ also known as stale cat piss $\endgroup$
    – user253751
    Apr 27, 2023 at 22:49

Hunt Them

A large python will weigh over 150 lbs.

Feral pigs are also endemic in Florida and eat basically anything.

Hunt the pythons and feed them to the domesticated pigs you have living a few floors above you.

(or eat them yourselves - in the US people eat rattlesnake all the time. I don't know how it compares to python, but it's probably similar.)

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    $\begingroup$ Or just eat them - snake tastes like free-range chicken. $\endgroup$
    – brichins
    Apr 27, 2023 at 23:00
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure having pigs living on floors ABOVE yours is a great idea :) $\endgroup$
    – biziclop
    Apr 28, 2023 at 13:49
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    $\begingroup$ @biziclop - it's much easier to protect your valuable food supply from other humans or large critters when you are between the food and the ground $\endgroup$
    – codeMonkey
    Apr 28, 2023 at 14:13
  • $\begingroup$ @codeMonkey You'd probably re-evaluate your priorities the first time you need to muck out their den. $\endgroup$
    – biziclop
    Apr 28, 2023 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ I wonder when dinosaurs and lizard / crocodile like animals became distinct, before that split, the chicken's and the snake's ancestors were still the same... But maybe when people say something tastes like chicken it is about not tasting like mammals - maybe we are the weird ones 😱 On the other hand, pheasant tastes closer to hare and rabbit closer to chicken, so I guess life style and nutrition make a bigger difference. Croc, snek, and chicken all don't move as much as pheasant and hare, after all 😎 $\endgroup$
    – yeoman
    Apr 29, 2023 at 14:19


A pack of dogs would be very unhappy with any snake that turned up and would try and kill it.

The snake might get one dog but a pack will get the snake.

At worse, the pack will tell every human around where the snake is.


This embeds some interesting questions about post-human ecology.

  1. What would the landscape look like after sea level rise?
  2. And would Burmese pythons be common?
  3. And would they come into conflict with people?
  4. Why are pythons terrifying?

  1. There is an interactive online map of Miami under sea level change from NOAA. Florida becomes a chain of small islands surrounded by a shallow sea, presumably with a lot of mangroves.


  1. Pythons would thrive. The exotic Burmese python is doing well in Florida and apparently thrives in mangroves and saltwater.


  1. Would they come into conflict with people? Would there be much prey around the buildings? They might be attracted by pets and livestock. People wading through aquaculture ponds might trigger an attack. Lower levels of tower blocks might be used during storms as refuges and routinely as basking spots and to digest. However the chances of an attack seem very low, compared to risk from venomous species such as the Florida cottonmouth and the dusky pygmy rattlesnake.

https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/are-large-constrictor-snakes-such-burmese-pythons-able-kill-people-what-risk-would-be-wild-or https://www.captainmitchs.com/venomous-snakes-in-the-everglades/

  1. So why do (your/our) humans find pythons terrifying? The thread dips into a primeval fear of snakes - Ophidiophobia. This is psychological. How are the future views of snakes shaped that make them so terrifying? Are pythons revered as oracles as in Greek mythology and the legends of Delphi? https://mythopedia.com/topics/python
    Or are they the creator of mankind as per the San people and Tsodilo? https://www.apollon.uio.no/english/articles/2006/python-english.html
    And how do you react when a real snake enters your home or ....?
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    $\begingroup$ These are wonderful resources, thank you for sharing. It doesn’t directly answer my question but it definitely justifies the frame and helps answer some follow up questions. Thanks. $\endgroup$ Apr 28, 2023 at 21:25
  • $\begingroup$ Pleasure . Perhaps you keep pythons out same way you keep bears out of a tent? Dont keep food that might attract them anywhere nearby (or that their prey might feed on). Dont leave heat sources for them to curl up against (pit vipers I believe will do this with kerosene lanterns left on the ground). Adults Burmese pythons are heavy and not adept climbers (they arent green mambas) so trip wires and bells might also work. As would zipping your tent. Or using a portaledge. takeoutdoors.com/guides/camping-guides/… $\endgroup$
    – Scirpus
    May 2, 2023 at 13:42

Which critters?

The event that destroyed the town not only sunk it, it also left the place a horrible toxic wasteland. Maybe the closeby chemical plant turned the basin into a caustic brew that eats whatever is in the water. Humans with their tools can adapt and just bridge over it and clean the water, but animals and critters would need to be transported into the town that uses the skyscrapers as stilts and foundations.

Because the contaminated water does not let snake-food critters get to the skyscrapers, and it kills snakes, there will be no snakes in the ruined skyscrapers.


Pythons can swim, true, but they have barely enough buoyancy to stay afloat.

This means that if you manage to cover enough surface of the water with something less dense, you could keep them under water.

Probably the most useful substance would be some oil, and you would need to create a sort of floating fence to keep the oil around the places you want to protect. In this way:

  • the layer of oil would keep the python submerged, where sooner or later they would suffocate
  • the oil sticking to the body of the python would make climbing a wall much more difficult
  • $\begingroup$ How would oil not wash away with the tides and so on? Also, what's stopping them from swimming into the lower levels and ascending the inside of the building? $\endgroup$ Apr 27, 2023 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ @RichardRast, floating fence, it's written $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Apr 27, 2023 at 14:47
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, floating fence at the lower level (well, I guess a big screen or something that moves with the tides) might work. I gotta think about that a bit more $\endgroup$ Apr 27, 2023 at 15:22

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