Burmese Pythons in the Everglades

burmese pythonOne of the biggest threats to a balanced ecosystem in the Everglades is the Burmese pythons. These snakes are an invasive species in the wetland. The python happens to love the Everglades, but this wetland cannot handle its presence. Pythons prey on almost anything in their path, and have been known to cause a large depletion in the rabbit, opossum, wading birds, racoons and other small populations population in the area. Its only predators are the American alligator and the Florida panther. However, these pythons can put up a fight and a recent video take by someone in the Everglades showed an alligator losing a fight with a python in water.

The state of Florida currently pays $8.10 per hour for people to hunt the Burmese pythons living in the Everglades. Up until June 1, there were 25 hunters killing pythons in the Everglades. These hunters use traps, dogs, public round ups, and radio-tracking implants to find and capture these snakes.  According to the South Florida Water Management District, there could anywhere from 10,000 to even more than 100,000 pythons slithering around the Everglades; they are not easy to find. The District is paying $50 for every snake caught, and an additional $25 if the snake is more than 4 feet in length. In April, the 50th Burmese was caught. The hunt began on March 25.

With each capture, the District and hunters hope the populations of other species from birds and small mammals to deer will begin to rise. Not only to these pythons’ lower animal populations by eating them, but they harm the population who eats them! These snakes’ bodies hold high levels of mercury, which can poison any animal or reptile that eats them. The pythons’ presence in the Everglades is changing the entire ecosystem.

Earlier this year, the 2016 Python Challenge occurred from January 16 to February 14; it was held by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida.  106 pythons were turned in.

Unfortunately, these pythons found their way into the Everglades after being released by many people who had them as pets; they are native to Asia. If you want to participate in next year’s challenge, click here. There are plenty of things you need to know and do before going python hunting.

If python hunting isn’t your thing, visit the Everglades in a much more relaxing way… on an airboat tour! This is your chance to see the Everglade’s wonderful wildlife that is still around, despite pythons and climate change issues. To book a tour, click the Captain Mitch’s Everglades Airboat Tours page or call 239-695-3377.

Everglades Python Challenge: the hunt for an invasive species

burmese python

Over the weekend, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission kicked off an annual initiative to rid South Florida of the invasive Everglades python. The challenge began Saturday January 16, when the sunshine state launched an incentivized hunt that will last all month.

The python in question, the Burmese Python, belongs far away from Florida (in Southeast Asia to be exact), which is why the state will award cash prizes to two captors: a reward for whoever catches the most snakes and another for whoever catches the largest one. Burmese pythons can reach 23 feet in length and 200 pounds in weight.

And though the python is adjusting quite nicely to the Everglades habitat, the Everglades is not adjusting well to its presence. Since these snakes have no predators other than the American alligator and the Florida panther, they can feed on most anything in their path. This results in the depletion of the area’s rabbit, opossum and raccoon populations. It also affects defenseless endangered species like certain wading birds or small mammals.

But the threat of the Everglades python doesn’t stop there. Because Burmese pythons house a high concentration of mercury in their bodies, they can poison the predators that eat them. This means the already endangered Florida panther and the American alligator, otherwise known as “the king of the Everglades,” are also at risk. Essentially, the invasive existence of the Burmese python poses detrimental changes to the delicate Everglades ecosystem.

With the 2016 Python Challenge, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission hopes to rid the Everglades of these nuisance snakes. But this accomplishment is easier said than done. Dubbed a “high-risk species” by the U.S. Geological Survey, Burmese pythons are so difficult to eradicate due to their elusive nature and the camouflaged Everglades terrain in which they thrive. For instance, the 2013 Python Challenge consisted of 1,600 hunters who caught a total of 68 snakes. Only 600 participants registered for this year’s hunt, and the results are to be determined.

Although no concrete data exists to prove just how many Burmese pythons now reside in the Everglades, experts believe there are tens of thousands of the snakes in wild Florida. And the USGS attributes this infestation to humans. Believe it or not, people once kept these monstrous snakes as pets. When Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992, multiple Burmese pythons escaped from a breeding facility and made their way to the Everglades. Python owners are also known to release their pets into Everglades wilderness.

Everglades Python Safety

Though unprovoked attacks are rare, Burmese pythons have struck humans before. React to an Everglades python the way you would react to an alligator. Remember to back away slowly and keep your eyes trained on the snake. It’s important to read the animal’s body language to observe any signs of aggression. Hissing and thrashing could mean an impending attack.

Do you have what it takes to catch an Everglades python?

Before participating in the 2016 Python Challenge, you need to learn about the animal, the environment and how to catch it. First, complete the 30-minute training module found on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website. Then, complete the 10-question quiz. You must receive an 80 percent or higher to register. The cost to participate is $25 for an individual or $75 for a team.

Don’t have what it takes to catch an Everglades python?

Hunting pythons isn’t for everyone, but there are other ways to enjoy Everglades wilderness. If you’re not ready for a python hunt, opt for an Everglades airboat tour. This family-friendly activity puts you a safe distance from Everglades pythons while exposing you to the beauty of an ever-changing ecosystem. To book your Everglades airboat tour, contact Captain Mitch’s Everglades Airboat Tours at 239-695-3377.