Sixteen Foot-Long Python Captured At Everglades National Park

This huge Burmese python recently was captured and removed from Everglades National Park. NPS photo.

A Burmese python more than 16 feet in length and tipping the scales at 140 pounds has been captured at Everglades National Park, evidence of the problem park officials face with the spread of these non-native constrictors.

The female snake was captured Monday after a park staffer came upon it while spraying non-native vegetation.

Park officials say that "many national parks struggle to manage the impacts on resources by invasive exotic animals and plants, but it seems that the Burmese python in the Everglades has captured the attention of the media and the public on this issue, which may help to focus attention on the larger invasive exotic problem that many land managers are grappling with."

"The park has spent the past few weeks emphasizing to the media and the public the importance of not letting unwanted animals or plants loose," notes Everglades spokeswoman Linda Friar. "It is important to focus on what we have learned from this experience to prevent future invasive exotic infestations and improve our ability to react quickly before a species becomes impossible to eradicate."

While pythons have been a problem in Everglades National Park for much of the past decade, the situation garnered heightened media interest recently due to a study blaming the snakes for a "precipitous declines" in mammals that once were commonly seen in parts of the park.

Though members of the park’s staff are working on containment and science to better understand the impacts of this newest exotic in the park, it appears that eradication is currently not possible on a landscape the size of the park (almost 2400 square miles), Ms. Friar wrote in a release.

Comments

Okay, now that they have it, what will they do with it?

Unfortunately, Sharon, they'll kill it, if they haven't already.

Don't understand why they waste time and manpower cathcing these things. Machete to the neck, let the vultures do the rest. Then move on to the next. It's just way too inefficient to try taking them alive. I think public opinion is mature enough now to handle some snaky death.

Why, why, again~why!! do you need to study one of the largest of its' species again!! leave it alone!! in it's own wild, and uhm~~Protected Habitats of the earth!! Leave *her* alone. You've probably taken her away from the home she knows since birth! Do you care about that??? I must really re-think the way I select my charitable contributions!! I am going to support any/all causes related to Leaving Gods' Kingdom alone! I am all for science, but you already have and have studied the crap out of tens of thousands of specimens you people have already *collected*...
...in my humble opinion

I don't think Mary Wallace gets it! They are not native to the US. I agee with just chopping its head off. Why waste more time and money!

Is it too late for the snake to enter the republican primaries?

Gosh, David, it'd probably be a better choice than anything out there right now.

Ha, ha, they've already established themselves quite well on the other side of the isle. So obvious when they appear on the Republican side but flourish unbridled in the darkside with the complicit media and Liberal non-native fantasies :).

Dear Mary Wallace,
That snake is indeed a beautiful thing - in it's own habitat. Sliding around some jungle canopy in Burma it is undoubtedly a wonderful and vital part of its ecosystem. However, it is NOT a normal part of the Everglades ecosystem. The animals there have no natural defenses against such snakes. Everglades mammals are disappearing at an alrming rate - down snake throats! It is necessary to kill them, exactly because the Everglades is a protected place. To keep the wildlife that BELONG there safe. I wouldn't advocate killing them if there was way to catch them all, but the number is simply too big to spend that much time and effort with a single snake when there are tens of thousands that need removal.
The Everglades is a wonderful place - nowhere on earth do I love more (I was a ranger there for five years) but it is a seriously challenged ecosystem. The water it depends on (it's a swamp you know) is all fouled up in regards to purity, timing of the flow, and depth of flow, it's all manipulated by man through dams. The native animals and plants, some found nowhere else on earth are being forced out of their habitats by invading plants and animals like the Burmese pythons, but also by plants like Brazillian pepper, fish like African tilapia, birds like the hill myna, etc. All wonderful and important cogs in their home ecosystems, but real trouble when released into ecosystems never meant for them where nature has no way to control them. That, sadly, is why we need machetes. The pythons escaped from the pet industry, no point in giving them back, and every zoo that wants one already has one.
You might want to check out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_invasive_species_in_the_Everglades
Bill O'Donnell

Its probably important to provide an update on this story. Yes, nearly all pythons that have been captured over the past decade have been euthanized. No, the number is not tens of thousands, its actually just over 1,800. Nearly half of those have been studied in the laboratory, and these investigations have yielded a better understanding of the species than we ever had from studies in its native range in southeast Asia. Every new removal provides an important data point that helps reveal a new chapter of the story.
Similarly, this large female will also provide us with new knowledge. As it turns out, this snake was not euthanized but was, in fact, spared for the purposes of tracking. Having been outfitted with a trial GPS transmitter she was rereleased into the park today. Over the next few months, she will help researchers find additional pythons and provide valuable insignt into behavior and movement.
Mary, believe me when I tell you that no one working on ths issue takes pleasure in the task at hand. Ecologists, naturalists, and biologists all share a fundamental admiration of the spectrum of life on this planet. But the managerial mandate for Everglades (and most other NPS units) is clear: to "maintain the natural abundance, diversity, and ecological integrity of native plants and animals as a part of their ecosystem." And the ongoing investigations taking place in the Everglades are providing compelling evidence that the presence of pythons is taking a toll. Furthermore, these studys are the first step in finding an eventual control method.
The best bet against further tragedy is taking this lesson to heart and preventing future invasions...

Maybe Mary will be willing to adopt them all.

Eloquently put, Larry. I'm assuming she was sterilized as well, so that any mating she engages in does not result in offspring.

Larry, thanks for your dignified response. There is no reason to criticise people like Mary, who are most likely otherwise well-intentioned individuals that are simply ignorant of the dangers of invasive species and biological matter. Instead, with your kind of help, people can get educated on the problem, which will be the best way to "deal" with these animals and plants.
In the meantime, if a python wanders into one of the encroaching subdivisions (which raises the question of who is really being invasive, I suppose), people there have every right to pick up a machete and save the family dog, just as park staff could be doing in protected areas.

It would seem to me a mistake to return something so lethal to anything in the food chain as that for research. Something smaller wouldn't do?

They should put a bounty on them and let local hunters earn some money. Win, win.

I'm a little disappointed in the personal attacks, and political commentary in here

Wow, I usually don't read all the way through comments but I am glad to have read Bill's, Larry's and Brent's response to Mary's post. I agree that, now that humans have inadvertently disturbed that environment, they need to be proactive in setting it right again. It was interesting to read that this particular specimen was preserved to be studied in the wild to help us deal with the problem. And Brent is right on about patient teaching as the correct response to someone like Mary. I happen to generally agree with her about leaving animals alone but in this case, Mary, we owe indigenous Everglades fauna our best effort to save them.

A lot of people think:
1) the birds at not at risk. I disagree. Apparently the pythons less than about 2 meters long spend a lot of time in trees -- given the repro-rate of the adults, this bodes ill for birds, especially when there is nothing else to eat.
2) the mammals will adapt eventually. Again, I disagree. The terrain is such that between alligators and pythons, there is no safe behavior pattern. A swamp may look like a vast and undifferientiated area to humans, but to survive a deer or raccoon must utilize that space in a specific and consistent manner, and there doesn't seem to be any way to avoid the snakes. I would be willing to bet that any terrain in (e.g.) Burma that is tactically analogous to the Glades does not support mammals either...
Best case, in my view -- tens of thousands of people walking shoulder-to-shoulder through areas considered "impassable".
Not likely anyone will see this comment given the age of the article, but I will check back -- there seems to be expert opinion here, which is always appreciated.

Let the hunters help, license and monitor hunters to help exterminate these animals. Pass laws prohibiting the sale or import of animals that would hurt the enviroment. Those that already have pets should be licensed and tagged and breeding should be prohibited.

Well Anon, don't you know they must study study study!! An uneducated person might just cut their heads off and leave them lay to solve the problem. Probably wouldn't die until after sunset, though:). Releasing that 16 footer back into the glades seems to much like another Federal program (Fast and Furious).

Larry Perez said, " Nearly half of those have been studied in the laboratory, and these investigations have yielded a better understanding of the species than we ever had from studies in its native range in southeast Asia. "

Really? Do you really believe that? Do you REALLY believe that those studies have proved more in 15 years than in a lifetime of research in burmese python's native habitat? So, you know now more about their diet, their size, gestation, breeding, sexual maturity because of studies found in an area where they are not native? Really? That's a pretty bold and arrogant statement to make. You're acting as if it's a rare species with very little known about them. Here's what you've learned....exotic snakes can and will flourish in the Everglade's ecosystem. THAT is all you've learned, nothing more. Period. End of story. Don't act like there is any major science behind gutting a burm aside from seeing what it's eaten and taking notes to see what type of native animals they have been feasting on. If you really feel you know more than that and that the burm's are nothing more than a nuisance or great leverage for grant money or politician seeking another term, please enlighten......

Its not a matter of what I believe, Anon... its just the truth. And the facts are neither bold nor arrogant--to this day we know very little about the life history of this species in its native range. Most of what we presently know about social structure, courtship, and reproduction has come largely from observations made of captives over the past few decades. Now field work in south Florida is supplementing that knowledge regarding parameters like mobility, habitat affinity, site fidelity, etc.

Despite your unearned hostility, I do share one simple frustration with you: prolonged scientific investigations have revealed exactly what most of us could have conjectured a decade ago: that Burmese pythons had the potential to be invasive and cause harm. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of science--it takes time to test theories, have them reviewed, and subject them to arguments. And while its important to allow that process to play out, there is also a need to allow for simple common sense in public policy. [
Common sense would have recommended more stringent regulation of ownership and trade in the 80s when encounters with escaped pet constrictors became increasingly commonplace in south Florida. Common sense would have dictated swift and decisive regulatory action in the Sunshine State following published warnings by researchers back in 2000 that Burmese pythons were established. And common sense would have dictated that a formal petition to list the Burmese pythons as injurious under the Lacey Act back in 2005 would have been fast tracked--instead it took almost six years.

In fact, had the US Fish and Wildlife Service been successful in more carefully regulating all animal imports--as it attempted back in 1974--we might not even be having this discussion. But as always, it was private entities with an economic interest in prolonging the trade and sale of captive exotic pets that thwarted the effort. Its pretty hard then to pin the current tragedy as an attempt by Uncle Sam to get rich.[/b]

Science is important, but the unreasonable demand for absolute proof that comes from both regulators and pet industry interests has resulted in action that is too little too late. It is the inability to act quickly on common sense and look past petty economic consideration that has led to the senseless drama that now disappoints us all.

Nice post, Larry.

If dogs can be proven to reliably locate all the pythons in a given area (say, 1-4 acres), I am greatly encouraged. I have seen what dog/human teams can do eradicating hogs, coons, squirrels and such -- it seems likely a good python dog could reliably locate even the juvvies in trees, or (obviously) target nests.

It would take a lot of dogs and a lot of people, but should it become as popular as hog hunting, a great impact could be made -- even in the park.

I'm sorry, but this devastation is another man made one, and we MUST eliminate these snakes before they truly cause extinction of many of the everglade's animals. Not sure how to put them to good use afterwards, but damn if they don't make a BEAUTIFUL pair of snakeskin boots. I'd love to have a pair of burmese python cowboy boots! There ya go, someone can start a business, one more job in our fledgling economy!