projects > burmese pythons in the greater everglades: movement, habitat use, impacts, and control tools
Burmese pythons in the Greater Everglades: Movement, habitat use, impacts, and control tools
Observations of Burmese pythons exist in the United States primarily from locations within Everglades National Park (ENP), including; along the Main Park Road in the saline and freshwater glades, and mangroves, between Pay-hay-okee and Flamingo, the greater Long Pine Key area (including Hole-in-the-Donut), and the greater Shark Valley area along the Tamiami Trail (including L-67 Ext.). The non-native species has also been observed repeatedly on the eastern boundary of ENP, along canal levees, in the remote mangrove backcountry, and in Big Cypress National Preserve.
As Python molurus is known to eat birds, and also known to frequent wading bird colonies in their native range, the proximity of python sightings to the Paurotis Pond and Tamiami West wood stork rookeries is troubling. The potential for pythons to eat Mangrove Fox Squirrels and Cape Sable Seaside Sparrows and to compete with Indigos Snakes is also of concern.
Pythons are now established and breeding in South Florida. Python molurus bivittatus has the potential to occupy the entire footprint of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project (CERP), adversely impacting valued resources across the landscape. Proposed management and control actions must include research strategies and further evaluation of potential impacts of pythons.
The results of this project will be applied to develop a comprehensive, science-based control and containment program. The proposed project will also increase our understanding of the impacts of Burmese pythons on native fauna in DOI and surrounding lands. Dealing with established exotic species requires that we understand their movements and habitat use, status and impacts, and how to remove them. A current priority item for determining status is finding out the extent of invasion by established species. Once we know where and when the threat is occurring, we need a better understanding of how the threat may manifest itself ecologically-that is, what are the impacts of invasion? What is the ecological 'footprint' of a given (large) python? We can hypothesize that Burmese pythons compete with native snakes or affect populations of prey species; however, knowing with certainty that pythons eat wood rats, for example, better focuses eradication efforts and spurs action. A study of diet (i.e., gut content analysis, stable isotope analyses) of Burmese pythons directly addresses this issue. Further, knowing how much pythons eat through use of state-of-the-art biologging technologies (i.e., accelerometers or acceleration data loggers ADLs) allows us to forecast with more certainty predation evens and therefore impacts on native fauna.