Wildlife trackers find massive pile of mating pythons near Naples

Image via Conservancy of Southwest Florida

By Crystal Harlan

March 19, 2024

Burmese pythons have no natural predators and have contributed to the decline of racoon, opossum, and bobcat populations in the state.

A team of wildlife conservationists found a pile of mating Burmese pythons, weighing a total of 500 pounds and measuring seven feet wide, in a marsh near Naples last month.

The recent tracking mission, which captured 11 Burmese pythons, including a 16-foot female, was part of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s program to hunt down the invasive species. Burmese pythons have no natural predators and have contributed to the decline of racoon, opossum, and bobcat populations in the state.

“It’s probably most people’s worst nightmare, but for us, it’s a good day. It’s a win for native wildlife,” Conservancy biologist Ian Bartoszek told the Miami Herald.

The invasive species is considered one of the most concerning in Florida, especially in the Everglades National Park. What’s even more alarming is that pythons have been migrating throughout the state ever since an established breeding population was first documented in 2000, according to a comprehensive review of python science published last year by the U.S. Geological Survey. Pythons have already reached West Palm Beach and Fort Myers, and are now headed toward Central Florida.

To locate the pythons, staff from the Conservancy put implant trackers in male “scout snakes” and set them free in remote areas. As of September 2023, biologists and project volunteers from the Conservancy have removed over 30,000 pounds of pythons from an approximately 150 square mile area in southwestern Florida.

“For 10 years, we’ve been catching and putting them down humanely,” Bartoszek said. “You can’t put them in zoos and send them back to Southeast Asia. Invasive species management doesn’t end with rainbows and kittens. These are remarkable creatures, here through no fault of their own. They are impressive animals, good at what they do.”

 

RELATED: 7 non-native species wreaking havoc in Florida

Author

  • Crystal Harlan

    Crystal is a bilingual editor and writer with over 20 years of experience in digital and print media. She is currently based in Florida, but has lived in small towns in the Midwest, Caracas, New York City, and Madrid, where she earned her MA in Spanish literature.

CATEGORIES: ANIMALS
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