Stopping a Burmese Python Invasion. Created by The Nature Conservancy and now led by FWC, Python Patrol trains snake-spotters and wranglers.
Think you've seen a Burmese python or another invasive reptile? Report it using the free IveGot1 app, online at IveGot1.org or, if the animal is in front you right now, by calling 1-888-IVEGOT1.
The first Burmese python found in the Everglades in 1979 was a former pet released or escaped into the wild. Today, after years of breeding, tens of thousands of the snakes inhabit the mainland around Everglades National Park, feasting on rare and endangered species.
Birth of Python Patrol
While pythons aren’t known to attack people, they are indiscriminate eaters. They have been known to eat a wide range of wildlife from tiny songbirds to adult deer and alligators up to 6 feet long.
Finding an invasive python in the wild is difficult, which is why you need a volunteer army.
Did you know invasive species, like the Burmese python, cost $100 billion in damages in the U.S. alone? MSNBC’s Morning Joe Reports.
The first Keys python was discovered alive in 2007. When researchers checked on the status of a male Key Largo woodrat wearing a radio transmitter, they found it had moved more than a mile from its original documented habitat. The signal led the researchers to a 7-1/2-foot Burmese python with stomach contents that included two collared woodrats.
The Nature Conservancy Florida launched Python Patrol in the Florida Keys in 2008 and, with the help of Everglades National Park, expanded the effort to the mainland in 2010. Any of the over 400 responders trained by the Conservancy can safely and humanely capture and remove pythons or other exotic constrictors they encounter.
Citizens can learn more about pythons at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's python site. FWDC now coordinates the Python Patrol.
“We encourage anyone who sees a python or other non-native animal to take a photo from a safe distance and report it on our free hotline,” said Cheryl Millett, the Conservancy biologist who transferred Python Patrol to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“Early-detection, rapid-response is the best way to stop them from spreading,” Millett said. “Even if the idea of getting your hands on a python gives you the heebie-jeebies, you can be part of the solution by learning how to spot them, calling it in, and helping us remove them.”
Interesting fact: Burmese python hatchlings are 18” long and the longest one captured in south Florida was 18’8”.
In a Marathon Race with a Python, You’d Win
Burmese pythons are ambush predators with great camouflage. They spend lots of time hiding in wait and then expend a lot of energy in a short burst to surprise-capture their prey. Python Patrol responders can use python’s lack of endurance to help make capturing them easier.
During training, responders are taught how they can pull an escaping python back by the tail repeatedly to let the snake expend a lot of energy. When the snake is tired, the responder grabs the base of the head to avoid getting entangled with the snake. Pythons captured in the wild are securely bagged, boxed, tagged and dropped off to a designated recipient for research or training.
Remember: Always call a trained responder and NEVER try this at home.
Policy of Prevention
The Conservancy has long called for a more preventative and proactive approach to address the threat of invasive species.
“Right now, imported species are innocent until proven guilty,” says Kris Serbesoff-King, the Conservancy’s director of science and planning. “As a nation, we need to focus on pre-importation screening—that is to say looking at what will likely be a small number of non-native imported wildlife that could go on to be harmful to the lands and waters we are working to protect.”
What Can You Do?
- Become familiar with distinguishing invasive from native reptiles. Free online REDDy training is available through the University of Florida and offers a certificate at end of the 40-minute free training, plus ID and reporting handouts.
- Report an invasive species sighting at I-888-I’veGot1, www.IveGot1.org or the free “IveGot1” apps for iPhone or Android, that were developed by the University of Georgia.
- Help us continue our conservation work in Florida.