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Catching a Snake: Largest python found in the Everglades signals a threat

Written by Javed Iqbal

The state seeks to improve the detection of pythons in the wild because they are capable of camouflaging and settling in remote areas, Ms. Spencer said.

“We need to try more methods, more ways to try to control these animals,” she said.

Burmese pythons were introduced to the Everglades in the 1980s by the exotic pet trade industry, but their sale was banned in 2012, said Stephen Leatherman, a soil and environment professor at Florida International University in Miami.

People who kept the pythons did not always know what to do with them when they got too big to handle, and many put them out in the wild. The Burmese python has since taken the place of the alligator, which is native to Florida, as the top predator in the Everglades.

Burmese pythons are threatened in parts of Southeast Asia, said Mr. Leatherman, however, those who have found their home in Florida cannot simply be returned because they have been genetically adapted to their new environment. The populations of raccoons, rabbits, possums, birds and alligators in the wetlands have all coincided with the deer and panthers as the pythons have claimed more territory.

“They’s fascinating animals, but they’re just the worst thing for the Everglades,” he said.

The Everglades region, which covers 1.5 million acres in southern and southwestern Florida, is a unique freshwater ecosystem surrounded by sawdust with a slow-flowing river during the wet season, according to the National Park System. Its habitats include cypress swamps, wet prairies and mangroves, with various species of birds, mammals, reptiles and plants, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

The Burmese python is just one of the threats that endanger that natural resource, said Steve A. Johnson, professor of wildlife, ecology and conservation at the University of Florida. Water pollution, rising water levels and urban development, in addition to other invasive species such as tegu lizards and reed warblers, are taking a heavy toll on wetlands.

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Javed Iqbal

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