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Invasive Pythons

Scientists hold large python in the field (larger than 20 feet)
Photo: Michael Rochford

The Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus), native to southern Asia and one of the world's largest snakes, reaching more than 6 meters in length and weighing more than 100 kilograms, has been a mainstay of the reptile pet trade for decades. 

Pythons are now established firmly as an invasive species over a large portion of southern Florida including all of Everglades National Park. Since recognition as a reproducing population in 2000, the number of pythons found and their geographic range has increased considerably. Pythons are generalist predators that consume a wide variety of prey including birds, mammals, and alligators.

Southern Florida has seen severe declines (87-100%) in several species of once common mammals including raccoons (99.6%), opossums (98.9%), rabbits (100%), bobcats (87.5%), and deer (94%) that are linked to pythons. Such extreme declines in easily observed and/or common mammals, such as raccoons and bobcats, bodes poorly for species of conservation concern, such as Florida panthers.  Although various hunts and other approaches have been attempted, thus far, we have no established method that shows promise of suppressing python populations across any significant portion of their expanding geographic range. The potential for these large snakes to kill humans is real, but predation on humans by large constricting snakes is extremely rare.