On the hunt for Burmese pythons: the discovery of the largest specimen in Florida is key in the fight to eradicate them

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff remove an invasive Burmese python in the Everglades Wildlife Management Area, Florida (FWC/Alicia Wellman/Handout via REUTERS)

Pythons are a serious problem in Floridaand the largest specimen recently found is evidence of a problem that still has no solution.

These animals have caused that in some areas of the Everglades, in Florida, the population of mammals such as field mice, weasels, raccoons or rabbits has fallen by up to 99%. and it is feared that it will end up with a good part of the wild fauna of an ecosystem in which millions of dollars are invested to maintain and protect it.

It is believed that Fast-breeding, predatory Burmese pythons came to the Everglades by being released on purpose by pet owners or inadvertently following Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Since then they have been disrupting ecosystems by eating a wide variety of variety of native species.

Each female lays between 60 and 100 eggs per year. Once it reaches adulthood at five years old, the snake has no predator other than the armed human and the occasional adult alligator.

Researchers of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida captured in december the largest python ever recorded outside its native range, weighing 97.5 kg and measuring almost 5.5 meters in length.

The discovery was made using a scout snake, a male with a GPS tracker attached. “This method allows them to find and eradicate more and more snakes, especially large, reproductively active females. Their removal has promise to help improve python invasion over time”, was reported in National Geographic.

By finding and dissecting these pythons, researchers are learning more about the snakes, what they eat, and how they can harm the environment they’ve invaded.

Photo provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) showing a Burmese python in the Everglades, the largest nature reserve in South Florida (EFE/ Carollyn Parrish/FWC)
Photo provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) showing a Burmese python in the Everglades, the largest nature reserve in South Florida (EFE/ Carollyn Parrish/FWC)

According to statistics from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), since 2000, more than 13,000 Burmese pythons have been captured, about 7,000 since 2017, when the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) joined the campaign with a program with a contractor. But, as explained from National Geographic, scientists have no idea how many thousands more there could be. “That’s the ten million dollar question,” says Bartoszek. “We don’t even know the order of magnitude.”

Agreed to this post”Pythons have persisted because they are masters of stealth. Even for those with training and dedication, snakes are hard to find in South Florida’s vast wetlands and subtropical forests, which are part of or adjacent to the Everglades.”

To try to stop the problem and track these specimens, what researchers do is send “scout pythons like Dionysus, or Dion, a male surgically implanted with a transmitter that can be tracked with radio telemetry. Conservationists release scout snakes into the wild, where they hook them to reproductive females during the breeding season.”

It is very important to remove large breeding female pythons from these ecosystems, such as the one recently captured, because they are disproportionately capable of having many young, said to National Geographic Sarah Funck, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

When the snakes they send remain in an area for a long time, they visit the place in search of females. But sometimes what they find is much more alarming than a pair of pythons: they run into a “reproductive aggregation”, a chaotic tangle of pythons clamoring to mate.

After chemically slaughtering them in a laboratory with the presence of a veterinarian, a necropsy is performed.as environmentalists want to know how many eggs a python can lay: The number of follicles or eggs in a python is a direct indicator of reproductive potential. In the case of the giant female, the count was 122 follicles, the highest on record.

Thomas Aycock explores the swamps and reedbeds of the Everglades while hunting Burmese pythons (REUTERS/Marco Bello)
Thomas Aycock explores the swamps and reedbeds of the Everglades while hunting Burmese pythons (REUTERS/Marco Bello)

The digestive tract is then examined. “To date, 73 animal species (24 mammals, 47 birds, and two reptiles) have been found in the guts of the Burmese python. in Florida, as documented by the team of collaborator Christina Romagosa at the University of Florida. Any invasive species can change its ecosystem, an invasive apex predator, especially,” he says. National Geographic.

Because of this problem, every year there are hunts for this species of snake.

Flanked by a massive writhing snake, Governor Ron DeSantis announced last Thursday that The annual award-winning hunt for invasive Burmese pythons in the Florida Everglades will begin on August 5.

People must register to participate and complete an online training course for the event, which typically draws hundreds of people from across the country. Last year’s “Python Challenge” involved over 600 people from 25 statesDeSantis said at a news conference in the Everglades.

Behind the Republican governor, it took three people to hold a live three-meter female python for demonstration. “These pythons are a threat to the Everglades.”

The hunt begins on August 5 at 8 a.m. and ends on August 14 at 5 p.m.m. Prizes include $2,500 for the most pythons caught and $1,500 for the longest snake. Last year, the first prize winner caught 223 pythons, while the $1,500 winner caught a snake that was over 15 feet long. Snakes must be slaughtered humanely.

DeSantis said this year’s state budget includes $3 million specifically for python removal in the Everglades, including technology like infrared sensors to locate the hard-to-see snakes in the wild. A key point of the snake event, the governor said, is to raise awareness of the threat and allow people to participate.

“We see this as a challenge,” he said. “We really wanted to leverage those efforts.”

Last year's
Last year’s “Python Challenge” involved more than 600 people from 25 states (REUTERS/Marco Bello)

(With information from EFE and AP)

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