A giant snake is expanding its range in America… and no other predators can stop it.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

For years, the Burmese python has been wreaking havoc on the Everglades ecosystem… and the worst may be yet to come.

Burmese pythons are not native to the United States, but they are dominating the ecosystem in a major way — killing off many of smaller predatory species. Burmese pythons are the third-largest snakes in the world and can grow to more than twenty feet in length. These semi-aquatic animals are native to tropical expanses of Southern and Southeast Asia and reside primarily in the trees and underbrush of areas near water. These powerful animals kill by striking and coiling their bodies around prey, essentially constricting them to suffocation.

The python’s attractive colors and usual docility towards humans have attributed to their popularity as pets. Many people underestimate the size and rigorous demands of these creatures, however, resulting in their eventual release back into the wild.

Since the 20th century, Burmese pythons have been considered an invasive species in South Florida due to their negative impacts on the surrounding ecosystem. Events of pythons eliminating prevalent native species have been well-documented across the state. Fox and rabbit populations are disappearing in high snake concentration areas and even larger animals, including alligators, have fallen prey to these dominating reptiles.

This was not the first incident of this magnitude, either. Back in 2006, a 13ft python was reported to have burst after attempting to consume a six-foot-long American alligator. The python’s gut was found busted open with the rear end of the alligator hanging halfway out of its body.

Image: South Florida Natural Resources Center

Efforts to reduce the proliferating Burmese python population have been undertaken, including trapping and biocontrol, but are thus far ineffective due to the animal’s elusive nature and high reproductivity rate.

Image: SFWMD

The South Florida Water Management has initiated a program in which they pay hunters to reduce the numbers of these large snakes. Based on estimates of a python’s diet, the 743 removed as part of SFWMD’s program would have eaten tens of thousands of native animals over the next 5 to 7 years.

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