Burmese pythons invading Florida’s natural lands come out of hiding on chilly winter days and can more easily be seen sunning on roadways and along canal banks. The Nature Conservancy asks for your help during this time of decreased temperatures and increased exposure. If you see a sun-bathing python or any other invasive species, like Nile monitors, take a photo and please call I-888-IveGot1 and report your sighting to the Python Patrol.
“We have 24-hour response by law enforcement in 10 counties, although anyone in Florida can leave a message,” said Nature Conservancy Biologist Cheryl Millett, who runs the Conservancy’s program. The counties where a responder trained by the Conservancy to capture invasive snakes is dispatched are: Miami-Dade, Monroe, Collier, Hendry, Broward, Palm Beach, Glades, Martin, St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties.
The Nature Conservancy began the Python Patrol in 2005 to help prevent the spread of snakes out of Everglades National Park and into the Florida Keys where one had been discovered after feeding on an endangered Key Largo wood rat. People who work outside for a living were encouraged to call in sightings and trained responders up and down the Keys captured the intruders. Now the program is being implemented across the southern part of the state.
Pythons eat a wide range of wildlife species, including birds, mammals and alligators up to 4 feet long.
“By capturing snakes in the counties on the edges of the major infestation in the park we may be able to stop the spread and prevent new breeding. And by capturing them in the park we hope to suppress the population,” Millett said.
Sightings can be filed on-line at IveGot1.org as well. There is also an iPhone App available through iTunes called IveGot1 that was developed by the University of Georgia. The phone number and web site are open for reports of all invaders, including fish. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is partnering with the Conservancy to respond to reports. And wildlife officers continue to be trained to properly capture and bag snakes.
“We encourage everyone to become more familiar with distinguishing invasive from native reptiles by taking the free online REDDy training offered by the University of Florida,” Millett said. Online REDDy training is at http://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/reddy.shtml and offers a certificate at end of the 40-minute free training, plus ID and reporting handouts.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.