First it was Burmese pythons, and now officials in Florida are working hard to remove invasive Northern African pythons.
The snake situation in Florida continues to become more serious as new populations of exotic invasive species are identified. The Northern African python was first documented in 2001. More recently, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has been seeking to remove the snakes before the population becomes too firmly established.
With Burmese pythons now inhabiting a large area including the Florida Everglades, it is especially important to prevent any more invasive species from gaining a foothold. Native wildlife populations suffer whenever these big snakes are present.
According to FWC biologist Jenny Ketterlin Eckles, “Unlike the Burmese python in Florida, the Northern African python population is thought to be confined to a small area in a single county.”
She also says that, “Focused efforts by the FWC and partners to locate and remove these invasive snakes could prevent the spread of this species into natural areas and inform management actions to address the Burmese python population.”
This time of year is a particular good time to be hunting the snakes. Cool weather means that snakes will come out to bask on warm sunny days. Catching them out in the open is usually the tough part, so this time of year gives the biologists a strong advantage.
So far, officials do not believe that the Northern African pythons have invaded the Everglades National Park area. That is good news if you enjoy backcountry trips in the Park and do not want to have yet another large snake to worry about.
Want to know how to help? Here are a few ideas from the FWC.
- Immediately report any sightings of live Northern African pythons to the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Venom Unit: 786-331-4454. For your safety, do not attempt to handle the snake yourself and, if possible to do so safely, photograph the snake.
- Report past sightings, road kill, shed skins and other remains of Northern African pythons to Ivegot1.org.
- If you own land in the identified area where this species lives, allow wildlife managers to search for pythons on your property.
- Deter pythons from your property by cutting back vegetation, clearing debris and securing small pets.
People should do everything they can to help wildlife managers combating the spread of the Northern African python. Invasive species compete with and, in the case of the snakes, feed on native wildlife.