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New program looks to contain the invasive Burmese pythons in South Florida

Burmese python FWC
Posted at 6:40 AM, Mar 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-09 06:40:50-05

In a few months, this team hopes to introduce drones to find these hidden creatures more easily.

According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, there are more than 500 non-native species in Florida. But one reptile poses a more severe threat to our ecosystems.  

There is a new program in the Everglades that looks to remove and understand this invasive species, the Burmese python.

In the heart of the Everglades is a reptile unlike any other. It was brought into Florida through the pet trade, and experts say it reaches up to 20 feet, weighs close to 200 pounds, and lives up to 30 years.  

It’s the Burmese python.  

“They don’t have a lot of their native predators that they would in their native range, they don’t have a lot of their native parasites that they would have in native range, so they have this advantage already, and then they are decimating our populations of native wildlife because they are not used to having a huge snake as a predator,” explained Melissa Miller.  

Miller is the lead researcher from the University of Florida that is partaking in a new scout program that looks to study and remove these creatures.  

She said currently, the state has removed close to 17,000 pythons, but they don’t have a clear picture of how many currently reside in these marshes.

But this mating season, they are hoping to change that.

Currently, the scouting program is monitoring eight pythons in the Everglades Sawgrass Marsh, and they hope it can lead to others.  

“Say you are tracking a male snake and he is looking for a female to mate with,” explained Miller. “You may also find seven additional male pythons out there and a female python that can put out a huge number of eggs.”  

With airboats or their own two feet, the team enters these inaccessible areas. They look for their snakes that have been tagged with transmitters as they put out a radio frequency that is then picked up by the team’s receiver.

The additional pythons found are then collected for research or humanely euthanized.

The goal is to not only remove the invasive species but learn more about their ecology, reproduction, life and history.

“The information we gather on this helps negate the negative impacts pythons are having, it helps us learn more effective ways to manage and control this species,” shared Miller.  

She furthered, “I’ve worked on pythons for over a decade now, and even back a decade ago when I was doing road surveys in everglades national park, you just weren’t seeing mammals. No marsh rabbits, no raccoons, no possums at all. So, seeing first-hand the devastation this introduced species can exert on the everglades was very moving and made me be proactive in doing what I can.”

The project will last until 2027 and is funded by South Florida Water Management District and FWC. It is also in partnership with the University of Florida and the US Geological Survey.