Every once in a while, non-native animal species will appear in a certain area and wreak havoc upon the local ecosystem by consuming and destroying the native fauna and flora or otherwise dominate the area without any check or counterbalance by natural predators.
Such is the case with the Burmese Python in the Everglades swamps of southern Florida, where the dangerous and deadly snakes have been spreading for the past 20-plus years.
The NBC affiliate in Miami, WTVJ, reported on Monday that a near-record-breaking size Burmese python was discovered under a house in the Everglades and captured by conservationist Ron Bergeron over the holiday weekend.
The snake measured roughly 16-feet long — about a foot shy of the record — and weighed approximately 165 pounds. But as bad as that may sound to some, that wasn’t the worst or most concerning discovery — as a massive clutch of about 50 eggs were also found with the snake, some already laid, some inside of her.
The female python had built itself a sort of nest within the open-air structure underneath the home and the timing of its discovery could not have been more fortuitous, as some of the eggs were beginning to hatch when Bergeron and his conservationists arrived to collect and properly dispose of everything.
“The Burmese Python poses a significant threat to the Florida Everglades by disrupting the natural food chain,” Bergeron told WTVJ.
“With good fortune, we were able to find a large female, and remove her and an entire nest of up to 50 baby snakes, which would have continued killing off our precious habitat.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission lists the Burmese python as an invasive species that poses a significant threat to native wildlife in the Everglades region.
As such, people are encouraged to not only report sightings of the nonvenomous constrictors to the proper authorities but are also allowed to humanely dispose of the snakes on private property — no permit required, only permission of the landowner — or in any of the 22 Wildlife Management Areas, Public Small Game Hunting Areas or the state’s Wildlife and Environmental areas.
There is no season or bag limit on the invasive non-native predator, with the only restrictions being against the use of traps or firearms — except in certain areas with permission — to kill them.
As far as the Burmese pythons themselves, the FFWCC noted that the snake is native to southeast Asia from India to southern China and all parts in between, including islands in the East Indies region.
They tend to live near water sources and can climb trees and swim — making the Everglades an ideal habitat — and while the snakes can grow as long as 26 feet and weigh up to 200 pounds, the average-sized python in Florida is only eight to 10 feet.
The snake tends to lay anywhere between 50 to 100 eggs at a time and tends to wrap itself around them to incubate and protect them. As noted in the WTVJ video, only about a third of the hatchlings will survive to adulthood, and the baby snakes are essentially on their own once they have hatched.
Burmese pythons pose an exceptionally low risk of danger to humans — indeed, their docility around people is a key factor in why some choose to keep them as pets — but are dangerous to a wide array of creatures such as birds, mammals and reptiles like alligators, not to mention cats and dogs and certain endangered species including the Key Largo Woodrat.
These snakes are extraordinary creatures that are worthy of caution and respect, but they are dreadful when it comes to the impact they have had on the Everglades. It is a good thing that the 16-foot python with 50 eggs was found and disposed of before it could do further harm to the local ecosystem.
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