Burmese Pythons Invading Florida!

Florida truly is a paradise, especially for exotic species. Our warm climate is very hospitable for many species to thrive in and we are the main point of entry for many reptiles imported into the U.S.(The Nature Conservancy, n.d.). This can create some major problems! What is an exotic species you may ask? Let’s take a closer look.

Exotic species are a non-native or “alien” species that has been introduced, usually by humans, into a new environment and are unlikely to cause environmental, economic, or human harm. Sometimes exotic species can even be beneficial! (Jacquart, 2011)

Invasive species are a non-native species that can cause environmental, economic, or human harm. They can spread rapidly and compete with our native species for limited resources. They can alter habitats, cause native plants and animals to go extinct, and reduce overall biodiversity (Jacquart, 2011). That is not good news!

There have been over 500 exotic species identified in Florida and 96% of Florida’s public waters contain at least one or more exotic species!(FWC, n.d.; University of Florida, n.d.) Currently, one of the most threatening invasive species to Florida’s wetlands is the Burmese Python.

Burmese pythons are one of the largest snakes in the world and due to its size, they do not have many predators. They are native to southeast Asia, but now have an established population in the Florida Everglades and have been reported in other areas of Florida as well (FWC, n.d.). The method of introduction is not known, but a large contributor is the pet trade and people releasing pet pythons in and around the Everglades (FWC, n.d.). They prey upon native, sometimes even endangered species (such as wood storks and Key Largo wood rats) and greatly reduce their populations (FWC, n.d.). Burmese pythons can also pose a threat to human safety as well as prey upon pets such as cats and dogs.

Fortunately, there are many programs in place to help remove these pythons. The Nature Conservancy, National Park Service (NPS), and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) have been working diligently alongside other partner agencies to manage and control the existing population of Burmese pythons. There have been more than 2,000 pythons removed from the Everglades and surrounding areas since 2002 (NPS, n.d.). A whopping 500 pythons were removed in less than 5 months as a part of the Python Elimination Program (Ballou, 2017).

What can you do?

- Learn about exotic pets before you buy them and never release them into the
  wild.
- Become familiar with distinguishing invasive from native reptiles
- Report python sightings to the Exotic Species Hotline at 888-IveGot1 (888- 483-
  4861), or online at IveGot1.org.
- Be a part of the Burmese python solution through Python Patrol, the Python
  Removal Program or by hunting pythons. More information on these and other
  python topics is available online at MyFWC.com/ Python.
- Educate others about exotic species

 Photo credit: Nicole Jennings, University of Florida

 Resources

Ballou, Brian. (August 17, 2017). “500 pythons snared in Florida hunt” Retrieved from: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/florida/fl-reg-python-hunt-reaches-500-20170817-story.html

FWC. (n.d.) Florida’s Exotic Fish and Wildlife. Retrieved from: http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/nonnatives/

FWC. (n.d.) Nonnatives - Burmese Python. Retrieved from: http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/nonnatives/reptiles/burmese-python/

FWC. (July, 2017). Burmese Pythons in Florida. Retrieved from: http://myfwc.com/media/2812584/burmesepython.pdf

Jacquart, Ellen. (September 13, 2011). Knowing (and Sharing) the Difference Between ‘Non-Native’ and ‘Invasive’ Retrieved from: https://www.conservationgateway.org/News/Pages/knowing-and-sharing-diffe.aspx

National Park Service. (February 7, 2017) Burmese Pythons. Retrieved from: https://www.nps.gov/ever/learn/nature/burmesepythonsintro.htm

The Nature Conservancy. (n.d.) Florida: Stopping the Spread of Invasive Species. Retrieved from:https://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/florida/howwework/combating-invasive-species-in-florida.xml

The Nature Conservancy. (n.d.) Python Patrol: Stopping a Burmese Python Invasion. Retrieved from: https://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/florida/howwework/stopping-a-burmese-python-invasion.xml

University of Florida (n.d.) Florida’s Most Invasive Plants. Retrieved from: https://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/manage/why-manage-plants/floridas-most-invasive-plants/