Florida Gives Up on Beating Back Python Invaders

Pythons in Florida are invasive predators that aren’t going anywhere

Python Andrew Sutherland

Florida is no stranger to invasive species. The Everglades in particular seem to attract invading animals, as well as people who think they’ve spotted weird animals, like Florida’s Bigfoot, the Florida Skunk Ape. But unlike the Skunk Ape, the pythons of the Florida Everglades are undeniably real. 

Last year, Florida invited python hunters to eliminate as many of the snakes as possible. But the hunters had little luck, and officials say that they won’t be holding another challenge this year—they've accepted the pythons are here to stay.

From the Washington Post:

Up to 100,000 pythons are estimated to be living in the Everglades, and more than 1,500 thrill-seekers, amateurs and skilled hunters who flocked to the event from across the country caught only 68.

Pythons are excellent at stealth. Trackers with the U.S. Geological Survey have stood a few feet from them — with radio transmitters — and failed to see them. In the challenge, 24 hunters with permits caught 42 snakes. More than 1,500 others caught 26.

Adding to the issue is python’s newly discovered ability to find their way back to the place that they were captured. In a study published this week, scientists discovered that pythons have a kind of internal GPS that makes moving them away from their home incredibly difficult. 

From USA Today: 

Researchers at Davidson and the U.S. Geological Survey trapped six Burmese pythons in Florida and placed radio transmitters in them. They then took them 13 to 20 miles away and released them.

The snakes immediately headed back, taking "direct and striking" routes, said Kristen Hart, a research ecologist with the USGS in Gainesville, Fla.

It took the snakes 94 to 296 days to return but eventually they navigated to within 3 miles of their original capture locations in Everglades National Park.

Without being able to effectively exterminate or move the pythons, it looks like Florida has a new pest to get used to. 

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