Florida Museum of Natural History scientists find 87 eggs in largest python from Everglades

. August 15, 2012 . 0 Comments

University of Florida researchers curating a 17-foot-7-inch Burmese python, the largest found in Florida, discovered 87 eggs in the snake, also a state record.

Scientists at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus examined the internal anatomy of the 164.5-pound snake Friday. The animal was brought to the Florida Museum from Everglades National Park as part of a long-term project with the U.S. Department of the Interior to research methods for managing the state’s invasive Burmese python problem. Following scientific investigation, the snake will be mounted for exhibition at the museum for about five years, and then returned for exhibition at Everglades National Park.

“This thing is monstrous, it’s about a foot wide,” said Florida Museum herpetology collection manager Kenneth Krysko. “It means these snakes are surviving a long time in the wild, there’s nothing stopping them and the native wildlife are in trouble.”

Krysko said the snake was in excellent health and its stomach contained feathers that will be identified by museum ornithologists. Burmese pythons are known to prey on native birds, deer, bobcats, alligators and other large animals.

“A 17.5-foot snake could eat anything it wants,” Krysko said. “By learning what this animal has been eating and its reproductive status, it will hopefully give us insight into how to potentially manage other wild Burmese pythons in the future. It also highlights the actual problem, which is invasive species.”

Native to Southeast Asia and first found in the Everglades in 1979, the Burmese python is one of the deadliest and most competitive predators in South Florida. With no known natural predator, population estimates for the python range from the thousands to hundreds of thousands. They were determined to be an established species in 2000 and are a significant concern, Krysko said.

“They were here 25 years ago, but in very low numbers and it was difficult to find one because of their cryptic behavior,” Krysko said. “Now, you can go out to the Everglades nearly any day of the week and find a Burmese python. We’ve found 14 in a single day.”

The rapid population growth led to recent state laws prohibiting people from owning Burmese pythons as pets or transporting the snakes across state lines without a federal permit. Florida residents also may hunt pythons in certain wildlife management areas during established seasons with a hunting license and required permits.

Everglades National Park and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are partnering with other agencies to address the increasing populations.

Florida Museum of Natural History-Exhibits
3215 Hull Road – Powell Hall
UF Cultural Plaza
PO Box 112710
Gainesville, FL 32611-2710
352-846-2000
www.flmnh.ufl.edu

Category: Natural History

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