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Local Python Information for Breeding Season

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Posted: Thursday, March 28, 2019 8:39 pm | Updated: 8:26 pm, Tue Apr 2, 2019.

A neighbor spotted a six foot python crossing the street into a Homestead park last week.

Burmese pythons are supposed to be nocturnal. “Yeah, but we have streetlights,” she said. “It was really big! At least six feet!”

Scientists say a six foot Burmese python is a yearling. Pythons of one and half feet are hatchlings. The invasive non-native snakes can grow to twenty feet although the south Florida record is eighteen feet and some inches. That snake weighed over 100 pounds.

If you see a python, report it dead or alive to the County python hotline. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) wants to know; call 888-483-4681 (888-ivegot1).

Pythons are being spotted now as their breeding season is January through April. The female snake lays ten to thirty eight eggs (estimates vary widely) and guards a sort of surface nest until they hatch from their leathery shells. A female python euthanized a few years ago contained 79 eggs.

Because pythons hide and are nocturnal, it’s difficult to estimate their numbers in the Everglades.

Herpetologists say it’s between 30,000 and 300,000. No one really knows. It is clear there is a substantial breeding population locally such that a herpetologist called them a “ticking time bomb”.

“They’re the Ellis Island of exotic species,” said Ron Magill of the Miami zoo.

Boa constrictors have been found in the Everglades also. They bear live young and live about twenty years but it’s uncertain if there is a breeding population.

Scientists say there are now more nonnative lizards than native ones in south Florida. Homestead has tegus and may have venomous monitor lizards too. Green iguanas practically are considered natives, though they are not.

The nonvenomous pythons come in a rainbow of colors – the albino ones with yellow stripes and diamonds are popular with pet owners. 

It’s also probable that pet owners dump the animals into the wild when unable to care for them. Pythons grow very fast and become very large. The snakes are greedy eaters that act hungry even when just fed. Captives have a problem with obesity.

It’s not a good idea to eat them back. Wild Burmese pythons in the Everglades National Park have mercury levels of 3.5 ppm, over twice that of fish Florida calls unsafe to eat.

In 2009, a pet eight foot Burmese python strangled a two year old in her crib. The snake was malnourished so the child’s mother and boyfriend were convicted of manslaughter and are serving 12 years in prison.

Since 1990, the media has documented ten people strangled by pythons kept as pets. That’s not a problem with these shy snakes in the wild.

Burmese pythons are largely responsible for the 90 percent drop in mammal populations in the Everglades. They are at the top of the food chain with alligators and are known to eat 39 endangered species and an additional 41 rare species of animals.

Man is the python’s chief predator. However, some people think fire ants could help. They are documented to have tunneled under a nesting female and eaten her and her eggs. But ants won’t turn the tide. The only successful restriction on the snake’s range is freezing weather.

In 2012, the U.S. Department of the Interior banned importation of eight nonnative snakes, including the Burmese python. Captive pythons require a permit and must have a microchip. Since 2010, keeping pythons without a permit in Florida could lead to jail for seven years and up to a $500,000 fine (F.S.379.372).

FWC says pythons can be killed “humanely” on private land at any time but may not be transported live off private property without a permit.  FWC only says you cannot use poison, chemicals, gasoline or shotguns to kill pythons.

FWC offers an online training course on how to capture pythons. It includes an educational video. The agency hosts a two to three hour class somewhere in Florida almost every month.

There is a Python Pickup Program sponsored by FWC as an incentive to kill Burmese pythons. Just show FWC a clear picture of a dead python with the date and location of the kill with your name, address and phone number. False reports make you ineligible for any prize.

For your first proof of a dead python, FWC will send you a T-shirt. For each additional proof, you will be entered into a grand prize drawing set for October 2020. Official rules are online at FWC. So far, the agency hasn’t picked a grand prize but plans to announce it when they do.

The Commission also hires python removal contractors for surveys of nonnative constrictors. Contractors are paid $8.46 an hour to conduct surveys in the Everglades and wildlife management areas. They are paid $15 an hour to respond to survey requests. FWC pays $50 for all nonnative constrictors measuring up to four feet and $25 more for every foot above that. Eligibility is easy and applications are online.

If only the Homestead neighbor had known, she could have collected $100 from FWC for that little six foot python.

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1 comment:

  • kritter posted at 10:24 pm on Fri, Mar 29, 2019.

    kritter Posts: 49

    no point in killing them. if you see 1, there's probably 100 others around the area.