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    which type of pet snake has become an invasive species in the everglades?

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    1.4 Invasive Species Burmese Python (Python bivittatus) and its Effect in Florida – Environmental ScienceBites Volume 2

    1.4 INVASIVE SPECIES BURMESE PYTHON (PYTHON BIVITTATUS) AND ITS EFFECT IN FLORIDA

    1.4 INVASIVE SPECIES BURMESE PYTHON (PYTHON BIVITTATUS) AND ITS EFFECT IN FLORIDA LINDSEY A. KRUSLING

    What started out as a popular pet species, is now threatening an entire ecosystem. Burmese Pythons are an established invasive species in Florida that have no natural predators. Can the Florida Everglades control these populations or will the natural biodiversity continue to suffer?

    Figure 1. Burmese Python (Python bivittatus) in the Florida Everglades. Courtesy of R. Cammauf, NPS, 2005, FlickrCommons. Public Domain.

    The Burmese python () is a species native to the tropics in South and Southeast Asia.3,6,9,11  As a popular pet species, many were brought to the United States.3,8,9,11  However, many owners did not realize that this species of snake was one of the five largest in the world and may grow to over 5.5 meters (18 feet) in length.1,2  Many unprepared owners released these snakes into Florida’s Everglades after they grew too large to handle.9,11  Enough of these snakes were released that a large, wild breeding population rooted in Florida.9,11  The Burmese Python became an established invasive species which is thriving and threatening the ecosystem of Florida’s Everglades.

    Figure 2. Burmese Python Zones of Inhabitance. Courtesy of Terminija, 2013, Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0. and USGS, 2007, Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

    Burmese pythons are having a significant impact on the ecosystem and biodiversity in the Everglades and surrounding areas.  As an invasive species, the python has no natural predator in Florida, making it an apex predator in the area.1,5,8  Therefore, the population of these snakes is not being naturally controlled.  Since the invasion of these snakes in 2000, there has been a large decline in many animal populations across the Everglades.1,2,3,5,8,11  Burmese pythons have the ability to eat prey much larger than itself through unhinging its jaw, and therefore there is no animal safe from this predator in the Everglades.  One of the previous top predators, the American Alligator, has been observed being eaten by these huge snakes (Figure 3).1,3,5,8,11  Road surveys done after the introduction of the pythons, discovered a decrease of 98.9% for opossum, 87.5% for bobcats, 99.3% for raccoons, and a 100% for rabbit observations.1  This is evidence of top down pressure on all the species below the pythons on the food chain.1  Another study tracked and monitored Marsh rabbits to discover that Burmese pythons were accountable for 77% of rabbit deaths, which was larger than the control group with no pythons where 71% of deaths were caused by native predators.5  Large numbers of birds, especially songbird populations, have also been in a recorded decline since the introduction of this invasive species.2  In dissections of these snakes, all variety of wildlife in the Everglades has been found, including household pets.11  With no natural predators, the pythons are thriving and growing to large sizes.  Burmese pythons nearly large enough to break the world record have been recorded.10  Another impact of these snakes is a lack of food for other animals, especially other predators.

    Figure 3. Both the American Alligator and the Burmese Python frequent the Florida Everglades. There have been several documented cases where these large predators predate on one another. Photograph by Lori Oberhofer, NPS, 2008, Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

    One of the main questions for researchers is how these snakes are surviving the cold temperatures, and if they will spread further into North America.6  Burmese pythons are cold blooded and adapted to the warm weather of the subtropics of South Asia.  They are unable to survive in very low temperatures for long periods of time.  Burmese pythons need a minimum temperature of 0°C (32°F) for survival and 16°C (61°F) for digestion, and Florida is known to drop below freezing on rare occasions.4  Florida’s average low temperature is about 12°C (54°F), which may prevent the pythons from digesting food in the very cold winter months.4  However, it was discovered that these snakes are surviving using a unique form of thermoregulation, one that the Burmese python has never been recorded using.9  Temperature data loggers placed in brooding mother’s nests showed that the snake was using shivering thermogenesis to survive and keep her eggs alive.9  Temperatures in the nest were measured and showed to be warmer than surrounding temperatures outside, helping to provide insulation for the clutch.9  Burmese pythons were also discovered using brumation as a technique for surviving the cold weather.  During brumation the snakes will go to a warmer place, like an underground burrow, and enter into dormancy until the weather warms.  These traits are the necessary tools for survival in Florida’s relatively cold weather.  Yet, the research also concluded that Burmese pythons will not be able to survive winters in sites further north of the Everglades due to their lack of greater behavioral traits that would help them tolerate colder temperatures.4  These pythons might not be able to spread further into the United States, but they already have a steadily increasing breeding population in Florida.

    Source : ohiostate.pressbooks.pub

    How have invasive pythons impacted Florida ecosystems?

    Non-native Burmese pythons have established a breeding population in South Florida and are one of the most concerning invasive species in Everglades National Park. Pythons compete with native wildlife for food, which includes mammals, birds, and other reptiles. Severe mammal declines in Everglades National Park have been linked to Burmese pythons.The most severe declines in native species have occurred in the remote southernmost regions of Everglades National Park, where pythons have been established the longest. In a 2012 study, populations of raccoons had dropped 99.3 percent, opossums 98.9 percent, and bobcats 87.5 percent since 1997. Marsh rabbits, cottontail rabbits, and foxes effectively disappeared.The mammals that have declined most significantly have been regularly found in the stomachs of Burmese Pythons removed from Everglades National Park and elsewhere in Florida. Raccoons and opossums often forage for food near the water’s edge, which ...

    How have invasive pythons impacted Florida ecosystems?

    Non-native Burmese pythons have established a breeding population in South Florida and are one of the most concerning invasive species in Everglades National Park. Pythons compete with native wildlife for food, which includes mammals, birds, and other reptiles. Severe mammal declines in Everglades National Park have been linked to Burmese pythons.

    The most severe declines in native species have occurred in the remote southernmost regions of Everglades National Park, where pythons have been established the longest. In a 2012 study, populations of raccoons had dropped 99.3 percent, opossums 98.9 percent, and bobcats 87.5 percent since 1997. Marsh rabbits, cottontail rabbits, and foxes effectively disappeared.

    The mammals that have declined most significantly have been regularly found in the stomachs of Burmese Pythons removed from Everglades National Park and elsewhere in Florida. Raccoons and opossums often forage for food near the water’s edge, which is a habitat frequented by pythons in search of prey.

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    Source : www.usgs.gov

    How Burmese Pythons Took Over the Florida Everglades

    They've eaten practically every mammal in sight—and have no natural predators.

    How Burmese Pythons Took Over the Florida Everglades

    ADAM JANOSFEB 20, 2020

    Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images

    They've eaten practically every mammal in sight—and have no natural predators.

    Starting in the 1980s, the swamps of the South Florida Everglades have been overrun by one of the most damaging invasive species the region has ever seen: the Burmese python. These massive snakes, which can grow to 20 feet long or more, with telephone-pole-sized girths, have all but decimated the region’s small- and medium-sized mammal population, wreaking havoc with the area’s ecosystem.

    That ecosystem, the Florida Everglades, commands some 1.5 million acres—or about one-and-a-half times the size of Rhode Island. Save for a few bisecting roadways (US 41 and I-75), these desolate subtropical swamps are detached from the grid of American civilization. It’s hard to fathom that downtown Miami sits just 30 miles away from the vast wetlands that have become an adopted home for (at least) tens of thousands of huge snakes.

    Because female pythons can lay 50-100 eggs per year—and the creatures have no natural predator in the region—their threat continues to escalate.

    How the Burmese python took over Florida

    A young Burmese Python in Homestead, Florida.

    Charles Ommanney/Getty Images

    Native to Southeast Asia, pythons were first brought to the United States as exotic pets. When the exotic pet trade boomed in the 1980s, Miami became host to thousands of such snakes.

    Because pythons can grow to such unmanageable sizes, it was inevitable that some irresponsible owners would release the snakes into the wild. But most experts believe the pythons established a reproducing population in the Everglades sometime after Hurricane Andrew—a category 5 storm that devastated the state in August 1992. It was during that storm that a python breeding facility was destroyed, releasing countless snakes into the nearby swamps.

    Today, authorities have no idea how many pythons occupy the area, in large part because they Everglades—in their vast inaccessibility—are so hard to conduct surveys in. And the mottled brown snakes blend well into the scrubby environment.

    “It could be tens of thousands, or it could be hundreds of thousands,” says Rory Feeney, the bureau chief of land resources at the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD)—a federal agency that helps spearhead Everglades conservation efforts. The agency, Feeney adds, has been actively “dealing with invasive pythons for over a decade.”

    OPEN SEASON ON PYTHONS: Because the Burmese python is such a recognized nuisance to the Everglades ecosystem, the state of Florida has removed barriers to hunting them, and even set up incentive programs. Hunters can kill Burmese pythons and other invasive reptiles on private lands all year, without a permit or hunting license. As of 2018, hunting regulations have eased up on some public lands as well: Hunters can work without a permit or license, although there are some restrictions and guidance around the humane methods. For more information on how hunters become approved for official python eradication efforts, go to the South Florida Water Management District's Python Elimination Program.

    Greatest ecological threat to the region

    While only in South Florida for an ecological blink of the eye, the Burmese python has already devastated the mammal population of the Everglades, severely threatening its biodiversity. According to one study, between 1997 and 2012 the Everglades’ raccoon, opossum and bobcat populations dropped 99.3, 98.9, and 87.5 percent respectively. Meanwhile “marsh rabbits, cottontail rabbits and foxes effectively disappeared,” the study said.

    Another study, which fitted rabbits with radio transmitters and released them into the Everglades, found that 77 percent of those who died within the year met their fate at the deathly squeeze of the invasive serpent.

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    “We’ve found wading birds in the bellies of these pythons. We’ve found deer,” says Feeney.

    Daniel Simberloff, a biologist and ecologist at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and the editor-in-chief of Biological Invasions, succinctly described the Burmese python’s brutal efficiency in South Florida:

    “The habitat of the Everglades—it’s perfect. It’s warm; they do really well in muddy, marshy habitats…and of course there’s this huge food base that was totally unadapted to deal with them. There was nothing to keep them from doing very well.”

    Efforts to eradicate the pythons

    Captain Jeffrey Fobb of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department, handling a captured Burmese python he brought down from a tree.

    Charles Ommanney/Getty Images

    As evidence of the python’s damaging spread became clearer, state and federal authorities began working together in an attempt to eradicate the python population. In 2010, the state made python pet ownership illegal.

    Source : www.history.com

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