WILD

Python Invasion Expands Northward Across Florida

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida – The Burmese python, one of Florida’s most challenging invasive species, has been the focus of decades of USGS-funded research on its biology and potential control tools.

The U.S. Geological Survey has released a comprehensive synthesis of this research, showcasing the results and providing insights into the python invasion.

Burmese pythons were confirmed to have an established breeding population in Everglades National Park in 2000, and the population has since expanded to occupy much of southern Florida.

The pythons consume a wide range of animals and have altered the food web and ecosystems across the Greater Everglades.

The map illustrates the chronology of python removals across southern Florida and represents the best professional estimate of the invasion front, which is not exact and will change over time. Credit: USGS

The report, which pulled together the expertise of scientists nationwide, provides a breakdown of 76 prey species found in python digestive tracts. These primarily include mammals and birds, as well as two reptile species, the American alligator and Green iguana.

One of the biggest challenges of the Burmese python invasion has been the difficulty of visually detecting or trapping pythons in the vast natural landscape.

According to USGS Research Ecologist Kristen Hart, an author of the publication, “Extremely low individual python detection rates hamper our ability to both estimate python abundance and expand control tools across the extensive natural landscape.” Pythons do not readily enter any type of trap, occupy vast stretches of inaccessible habitat, and camouflage extremely well within the subtropical Florida environment.

The publication also states that eradication of the python population across the landscape is not possible with existing tools because the pythons have spread throughout southern Florida.

However, researchers at USGS and partner institutions are exploring potential novel techniques such as genetic biocontrol, which may one day provide an avenue towards larger-scale population suppression.

The comprehensive synthesis of Burmese python science represents a significant step towards better understanding and managing invasive species. The document provides a wealth of information that can be used to inform future management strategies and ensure the protection of ecosystems and native species in affected areas.

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