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To catch a snake: Largest python found in Everglades signals threat

The state is looking to improve the detection of pythons in the wild, as they are adept at camouflage and inhabiting remote areas, Spencer said.

“We have to try multiple methods, multiple ways of trying to control these animals,” she said.

Burmese pythons were introduced to the Everglades in the 1980s by the exotic pet trade industry, but their sale was banned in 2012, said Stephen Leatherman, professor of land and environment at Florida International University. from Miami.

People who kept pythons didn’t always know what to do with them when they grew too big to handle, and many released them into the wild. The Burmese python has since replaced the Florida-native alligator as the top predator in the Everglades.

Burmese pythons are endangered in parts of Southeast Asia, Leatherman said, but those who call Florida home cannot simply be sent away because they have genetically adapted to their new environment. . Populations of raccoons, rabbits, opossums, birds and alligators in the wetlands all declined along with deer and panthers as pythons claimed more territory.

“They’re fascinating animals, but they’re just the worst thing for the Everglades,” he said.

The Everglades region, which occupies 1.5 million acres in south and southwest Florida, is a one-of-a-kind freshwater ecosystem surrounded by sawgrass, with a lazy river during the rainy season, according to the National Park System. Its habitats include cypress swamps, wet meadows and mangroves, with various species of birds, mammals, reptiles and plants, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

The Burmese python is just one of the threats endangering this natural resource, said Steve A. Johnson, professor of wildlife, ecology and conservation at the University of Florida. Water pollution, sea level rise and urban development, in addition to other invasive species such as the tegu lizard and cane toad, have adverse effects on wetlands.


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