No! The Burmese python is not native to Florida although it may seem like it now. They are native to Southeast Asia. The first sighting of the Burmese python in Everglades National Park was in the 1980s. Not until 2000 was their population recognized as reproducing. This changed drastically starting in 2008. From 2008 through 2010 there have been over 300 sightings.

Due to the fact they disrupting the ecosystem of the Everglades, they have been classified as an invasive species. The Burmese pythons are outcompeting native species for food and other resources, as well, they are causing damage to the physical nature of the environment. There are few predators within Florida, apart from alligators and humans, but their hatchlings have an increased likelihood of being preyed upon. While they are comparable in size and in some case larger than adult native snake species, with the speed they reach their full size, that quickly reduces their vulnerability predation.

Their reproductive potential is high and reaches sexual maturity at a low age. Longevity of Burmese pythons makes it difficult in controlling their population. Typical female breeds every other year and produces between twenty and fifty eggs.

Since they are apex predators (alpha predator or apical predator who resides at the top of the food change) and are a dietary generalist, Burmese pythons are not dependent upon a specific prey species. With their flexible dietary requirements, they can survive for long periods of time without food. If prey is readily available, they will eat regularly.

Burmese pythons are secretive in nature which makes estimating the population difficult in the ability to conduct the traditional mark-recapture assessment. Pythons spend a majority of their day in hiding in burrows and aquatic habitats. Currently, the estimated python population ranges from at least 30,000 to more than 300,000.

While several methods have been proposed to control the thriving Burmese python population in Florida, but, unfortunately, all strategies proposed thus far have seen limited success. One problem is much of the area where they are is inaccessible to humans. Using detection dogs in canal searches has a 92% success rate and they can cover three times the distance of humans. Which is higher than the 73% for detection dogs and 64% for humans in the Everglades due to the thick vegetation.

While effective and practical control methods have yet to be proposed, regulatory measures are in place to prevent its further spread. In 2008, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission instituted regulations requiring permits for boas and pythons greater than 2 inches in diameter as well as PIT tags implanted in the snake’s skin for identification purposes. As of January 2012, The United States Department of the Interior placed the Burmese python, under the Lacey Act provisions making importation of Burmese pythons into the United States illegal.

Photo credit Lori Oberhofer, National Park Service

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