The Burmese Paython
Burmese pythons are large constrictor snakes that can grow to 8 m (26 ft.) in length. They are native to India, China, the Malay Peninsula, and some islands of the East Indies. Burmese pythons have been reported in extreme south Florida since the 1980s, and an established population is now located mainly within the bounds of Everglades National Park. Juvenile Burmese pythons and python eggs are eaten by a variety of animals, but when the snakes reach lengths of over 8 feet they become a top predator.
Often cited as having a docile nature, Burmese pythons are popular in the pet trade. However, they are currently listed as a conditional species in Florida and can no longer be acquired as pets in the state. They are also federally listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as an Injurious Species under the Lacey Act which prevents the importation of pythons into the United States and also prohibits the snakes from being transported across state lines.
A population of Burmese pythons is established in south Florida, mainly within the Florida Everglades. Individuals have been found near Naples, suggesting that the population may be moving northwest. Python observations outside of south Florida are escaped or released pets.
Burmese pythons have been reported from the saline glades and mangroves at the south end of Everglades National Park since the 1980s. The actual mechanism of introduction is not known, however it is likely that Burmese pythons escaped from a breeding facility that was destroyed during Hurricane Andrew. It is also likely that pet pythons have been released in and around the Everglades.
In Florida, Burmese pythons have been found to prey upon a variety or mammals, birds, and even alligators.
Because of its large size, adult Burmese pythons have few predators, with alligators and humans being the exceptions. They prey upon native species and may reduce their populations locally. Research is underway to ascertain the impacts pythons have on native mammal species. While pythons will eat common native species and exotic species such as Norway rats, they can also consume threatened or endangered native species. One python that was caught on Key Largo ate an endangered Key Largo wood rat.
Burmese pythons can pose a threat to human safety. They can cause serious injury; however there have been no reports of wild pythons attacking people. Pythons may also prey upon pets such as cats and dogs.
There is potential for the population to spread west towards Naples, but pythons will not likely survive outside of south Florida.