The Burmese Python (Python bivittatus), is a snake that is found naturally occurring in a large area of tropical South and Southeast Asia. Their average lifespan in the wild is 20-25 years (NationalGeographic.com), grow to be 16ft-23ft in length, and can weigh an upwards of 200lbs. These snakes are very popular in the pet trade and can be purchased quite easily.
Here in Florida, however, they have become a nuisance. Between raging storms destroying warehouses and freeing the captive pythons, and careless owners releasing their pets into the wild once they reach an unmanageable size, the Burmese python has an established population in south Florida – mainly in the Everglades.
Over 2,000 pythons have been removed from the Everglades National Park (ww.nps.gov) since 2002. This is only a tiny portion of the population that is present down here in south Florida. The pythons have inflicted a devastating impact on the ecosystem in the Everglades – these snakes have feasted on the native birds, mammals, and reptiles found in the ‘glades. This includes the previously endangered Wood Storks, which are currently listed as a “threatened” species (and are imperiled in the state of Florida). Below is an image showing what a Burmese python needs to consume in order to grow to be 13ft.
Many agencies in Florida are doing their best to remove pythons from the Everglades in an attempt to save Florida’s wild life. Florida Fish and Wildlife conducts surveys and rapid response to remove pythons from the everglades and peoples’ properties.
You can read more about FWC’s involvement HERE.
University of Florida currently is permitted to remove Burmese pythons that are encountered, as well as carry out surveys to find pythons. Recently they endeavored to bring in two Indian Tribesmen to help catch pythons!
You can read more about the Indian Tribesmen HERE.
And more about University of Florida’s involvement HERE and HERE.
Most recently, South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has developed a Pilot Python Elimination Program where they paid a select few individuals (who applied and were selected as good candidates) to catch and remove pythons from SFWMD lands.
You can read more about the SFWMD program HERE.
Burmese pythons are the perfect example of why pet owners should do major research before investing in purchasing an animal to keep as their own. This snake has proven to be a HUGE damage to the Florida ecosystems. Wildlife is declining – wood storks, song birds, alligators, bobcats, deer, marsh rabbits, and even other snakes have all been diet items found inside the pythons. This animal has cause some very real problems for the state of Florida, and I urge everyone to please take appropriate measures when you are considering buying, selling, and re-homing your animal. Be a responsible pet owner, DON’T LET IT LOOSE!
An interactive map of python sightings in Florida can be found HERE.
Photos are courtesy of myself and Nick Scobel (www.flickr.com/photos/michiganherper/)
About the author: Jenna is a Wildlife Ecology and Conservation student at the University of Florida. Her primary work is research, removal, and management of nonnative and invasive animals in south Florida.
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Ferrets and Friends, LLC has four writers bringing you information on a variety of topics from pets to wildlife, education to conservation, and from new developments in our business to information about our industry. Learn something new each week!