Python molurus bivittatus
Burmese pythons are native to Southeast Asia and are among the largest snakes in the world. They can grow to be 26 feet long (7.9 m) and weigh more than 200 pounds (91 kg). Thousands of these snakes are imported into the US every year to be sold as pets and thousands more are bred domestically for the pet trade. They are one of the most commonly kept exotic snakes and hatchlings can be bought for as little as $30.00.
Pythons grow very fast – up to 4 feet a year. A hatchling can grow to be 12 feet long in three years, and can breed in three to five years.
Because pythons grow so fast, they soon outgrow their welcome as a pet. They become hard to handle as they get larger and more difficult to house and feed. There are not many good options available for a python owner who wants to get rid of his 15-foot pet. Zoos will not take them, and no one wants to buy them. Owners end up releasing the giant snakes, and where it is warm enough and there is sufficient food they survive and thrive.
Pythons are non-venomous constrictors; they kill their prey by suffocation, then swallow it whole. These adaptable snakes are well suited to the Everglades – they are semi aquatic but also good climbers.
Burmese pythons are flourishing in the Everglades – they eat pretty much everything, including wading birds, raccoons, rodents and rabbits. They are breeding, and biologists say their numbers are increasing every year. At least two hundred of them have been found in the Everglades, many of them along the main park road used by tourists.
Some scientists had hoped that alligators would be competition for pythons, and might be able to control their numbers. But now it looks as if the battle between the two reptiles is more likely to be a draw. In 2005 scientists found a 13-foot-long python that had died after trying to swallow a six-foot alligator.
In Everglades National Park, Burmese pythons have been seen along the main entrance road to the Everglades National Park, Anhinga trail, Pa-hay-okee Overlook, and along the Park’s eastern boundary.
If you see a python while you are in the Everglades do not try to capture the snake on your own. Suspected python or boa sightings in the Everglades National Park should be reported to the hotline numbers, (305) 815-2080 or (305) 242-7827.
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