When you think of a relaxing vacation, seeing a python in a U.S. national park probably isn’t on your list. But a group of wildlife photographers spotted one this winter while taking pictures in Florida’s Everglades National Park.
These giant snakes aren’t necessarily uncommon in the Everglades. Although people don’t often see them, pythons are running wild in this national park.
Join us as we discover more about pythons in this popular national park.
Let’s dive in!
Burmese Python Found in Everglades National Park
Wildlife photographer Kym Clark snapped a video of a 15-foot python in the middle of the road in Everglades National Park. Clark and her photographer friends came across the snake while driving in early January 2023. After a few minutes, the giant reptile slithered its way off the road and into the tall grass.
The photographers quickly reported the snake’s location to wildlife officials. Burmese pythons began showing up in the Florida Everglades after the 70s trend of having them as pets. Unfortunately, they’ve caused huge declines in native wildlife. Because they pose such an ecological threat, state officials host an annual competition to rid the area of these pythons.
Are Pythons Native to Everglades National Park?
Pythons are large snakes found mainly in India, Southeast Asia, and much of Africa. None of the 42 species are native to the Americas.
The Burmese python landed in the Florida Everglades because people were breeding them and had them as pets. But when Hurricane Andrew plowed through south Florida in 1992, the breeding houses were decimated, inadvertently freeing the snakes.
Pythons are non-venomous snakes with rows of sharply angular teeth to help restrain their prey. Their dinner is then constricted and gulped down whole. Burmese pythons are nocturnal and like to hang out in the underbrush near water.
Although humans are too big for these snakes to fuss with, they carry many harmful diseases. Any water a snake has been in or pooped in can be hazardous to our health.
Pro Tip: Keep an eye out for these 5 Most Lethal Snakes in the USA.
What Is an Invasive Species?
A series of intersecting ecosystems connect our beautiful planet. An ecosystem is an area where animals, plants, landscapes, and the weather work together to form a biological community. The animals that typically occupy an ecosystem are called native species. The American Alligator and Oak Toads are examples of Everglade native species.
Non-native species are animals or plants living in areas where they don’t naturally exist. But they may not necessarily cause harm to other wildlife or the landscape.
Invasive species, on the other hand, are non-native animals and plants that do cause harm to their surrounding environment. Most of these species were brought over to new land by humans – intentionally or not. And now conservationists are working hard to get rid of them.
Are Pythons Dangerous?
When we think about the danger of pythons, we need to consider their impact as invasive species. We know their waste can carry disease and make people sick. And fortunately, attacks on humans are exceedingly rare. But for other animals, it’s another story.
Burmese pythons have few natural predators. However, occasionally crocodiles will attack them. But since no lions or tigers roam freely in Florida, it’s a slithering diner’s paradise. Burmese pythons eat over 70 Floridian animals.
The cascading effect of the python national park takeover is the decline in mammal populations. Fewer mammals mean mosquitos feed more on rodents and then carry viruses to humans.
How Do Pythons and Other Invasive Species Get into National Parks?
As we mentioned earlier, invasive species typically spread to new areas due to human activity. For example, cows were brought to America for food. But nowadays, most people introduce invasive species to new areas purely by accident.
There are many ways we unintentionally help invasive species get from one place to another. You might unknowingly bring a non-native insect or seed with you on your shoes when you visit a national park. Islands are particularly vulnerable due to boats and the various ways invaders can hitch a ride.
Luckily, we can take steps to avoid being accidental hosts. When camping, always burn local or certified wood. Keep your gear clean and ditch any stagnant water to prevent creating a breeding ground for mosquitos. And volunteer with the US Park Service during removal events.
Most importantly, don’t let your pets roam free in a national park, especially if you happen to bring a python!
Pro Tip: Don’t like snakes? Avoid these 7 Snake Infested States in the USA.
What Is Being Done About Pythons in Everglades National Park?
The well-established population of Burmese pythons in the Everglades has expanded to surrounding areas. Management and eradication remain a high priority for the Florida Wildlife Commission. Contractors survey the land, capture, and humanely kill the pythons.
Community engagement also plays a significant role in getting pythons out of Everglades National Park. Individuals can take free training courses to become python patrollers. Citizens can humanely kill these constrictors on private land year-round without a permit.
And there’s always the annual Florida Python Challenge. Participants who harvest the most Burmese pythons win cash prizes. Complete the training, get your tools, and you’re ready to go.
Report Invasive Species When You See Them
The crazy January 2023 video of a python crossing the road isn’t something you see every day. We admit we looked at the video more than once. But unfortunately, Burmese pythons do live in the Everglades National Park and can take visitors by surprise.
Invasive species require constant surveillance and action by government wildlife agencies. We can do our part by learning more about non-native animals and plants in our area. And if you’re in the Everglades and see a giant snake, report it to wildlife authorities and move away quickly!
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