Foreign animals are invading the Everglades. From cane toads to fire ants, these unwelcome inhabitants are disrupting the natural ecosystem of the region. But among all the intruders, no species poses a greater threat than the Burmese python.
Burmese pythons are native to the jungles of southeast Asia. Legend has it that these pythons were once common pets, released in the Everglades by negligent owners. Another theory is that Hurricane Andrew destroyed a storage facility in 1992, unleashing hundreds of python hatchlings into the wild.
But an even more pressing problem than their way of introduction into the Everglades is the pythons’ reproductive behaviors. A wild Burm can lay a clutch of dozens (if not a hundred!) eggs each reproductive year. And now officials estimate that from three to one-hundred thousand Burmese pythons are breeding, hunting and slithering through the swamplands of south Florida.
While there is no record of a wild Burmese python ever attacking a human being, they pose a serious threat to the fragile balance of the Everglades, where forty species are currently listed as endangered. These pythons could potentially feed on the native mangrove fox squirrel and wood stork or push out the threatened eastern indigo snake. And when an invasive predator like the Burm can live up to twenty-five years in the wild, the ultimate damage to the natural ecosystem is unknown.
The state of Florida has licensed snake experts to capture the invasive pythons. Armed with ground temperature and GPS devices, these python hunters patrol the waters, tree islands and swamplands of the Everglades in search for these foreign, over-sized serpents.
Check out the new Nat Geo WILD show Python Hunters, and follow their adventures in saving the Everglades from these hungry, twenty-foot long snakes. Python Hunters premieres Monday July 12 10P et/pt.
Video Preview: The python hunters run smack dab into a python in the Everglades, and almost get bitten in a very sensitive area!