Burmese Pythons Are Moving North From South Florida

By author of The Realblog with Stephanie Mallory

The invasive snake population has wreaked havoc on Everglades National Park’s ecosystem

Invasive Burmese pythons are moving north from the most southern part of Florida, where they have flourished for years.

Abundant in the Everglades National Park, the large snakes have now been spotted in Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, the most northern part of the historic Everglades wetland area, The Palm Beach Post reported this week.

According to The Palm Beach Post, in October invasive plant control contractors for the South Florida Water Management District spotted one of the snakes, making it one of three “credible” sightings.

“We have finally, unhappily, sighted a Burmese python in the interior of the refuge,” Frank Mazzotti, a wildlife professor at the University of Florida, says.

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According to news.yahoo.com, officials of the South Florida Water Management District are now trying to figure out how to stop the pythons from moving north, but efforts to decrease the snake’s population in other parts of the state have met with little success.

Pythons were first reported in Florida in the 1980s. Biologists believe python owners, who grew tired of their pets, released them into the wild, which resulted in the South Florida python population.

The snakes have since caused great harm to the natural ecology of the region by preying on small mammals and competing with other native species for food. With no natural predators in the area, the snake’s population has soared.

According to a study published in 2012, populations of raccoons, opossums, and bobcats had dropped 99.3%, 98.9%, and 87.5% respectively since 1997. Species like marsh rabbits, cottontail rabbits, and foxes have “effectively disappeared.”

The timing and geographic patterns of the population declines coincide with the population increase and spread of the pythons.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission encourages hunters to harvest pythons. They can legally hunt on private land at any time with the landowner’s permission and on 25 wildlife management areas.

State and local python removal programs offer free training for those who want to learn how to hunt pythons. People can also apply to join a paid team of python hunters.

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