Amy Bennett Williams, Fort Myers News-PressWed, June 22, 2022, 6:12 PM·4 min read
Conservancy biologists caught the biggest Burmese python ever found in Florida’s Everglades: an almost 18-foot-long, 215-pound female loaded with 122 eggs.
The record-breaking invasive snake was deep in the scrub of Collier County’s Picayune Strand, where a radio-equipped male “scout” snake named Dion led researchers to her.
Though scientists prefer not to make guesses, wildlife biologist Ian Bartoszek says there’s a good chance the massive matriarch might well be one of the original pet snakes released into the wild decades ago.
In recent years, pythons have gone off like a bomb in the Everglades, devastating populations of native mammals including rabbits, opossum, and white-tailed deer – creatures that should feed the endangered Florida panthers instead of introduced Asian reptiles.
So successfully have the pythons adapted to their new niche, says Bartoszek environmental science project manager for the Conservancy., that “We may have more Burmese pythons in south Florida than in southeast Asia,” where numbers are dwindling as habitat disappears.
Removing them will help the whole system return to health, says Conservancy of Southwest Florida CEO Rob Moher. “We’re spending $16 billion to restore the Everglades – it’s one of the most ambitious restoration projects in the history of the world and it’s on our doorstep here (and) you have this,” he says, gesturing to the behemoth spread on a lab table for a group of journalists, “in the middle of the western Everglades,” Moher said.
“So, is there a future where the western Everglades is silent? Imagine going out and there’s no wildlife, no bird life because this apex predator is just devouring what is out there.”
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