- Florida is home to 46 species of snakes, including six that are venomous and three non-native species that have become invasive — one of which is the Burmese python.
- There could be more than 300,000 Burmese pythons living in Florida. They are native to Asia but were introduced in the U.S. 20-40 years ago as exotic pets. Over time, some were released or escaped into the wild and populated Everglades National Park.
- The largest python caught in Florida is a Burmese python measuring more than 18 feet long and captured in 2020.
You’ll probably have a snake encounter at least once if you live in Florida. Florida is home to more than 46 snakes, of which only six are venomous. They can be found anywhere within the state: from dry uplands and fresh wetlands to coastal mangroves and salt marshes.
There are invasive species within Florida as well. Three of these non-native species have already established breeding populations. They play a significant role in the ecosystem. However, one introduced species is probably hurting Florida’s native wildlife in the Everglades.
Let’s find out the largest python ever caught in Florida!
What Is the Largest Python Ever Caught in Florida?
In 2020, snake hunters captured an enormous Burmese python (Python bivittatus) in Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWS) said the snake measured 18 feet and 9 inches long — a new record for the Florida state. The previous record was set in 2013 when a Burmese python measuring 18 feet and 8 inches was caught within the state.
In 2012, a Burmese python with 87 eggs measuring 17 feet long was also captured by researchers doing a geological survey in the Everglades. These snakes are known to be among the largest on the planet, having the ability to grow up to a whopping 20 feet long.
What Is the Size and Appearance of a Burmese Python?
The Burmese python typically grows to 15-20 feet in length. There have been reports of Burmese pythons over 18 feet long and weighing 400 pounds, but finding a Burmese that long or heavy in captivity is extremely rare. Specimens of more than 23 feet long are unconfirmed.
A lady residing at Serpent Safari had an enormous Burmese python that weighed more than 400 pounds and was 18 feet long. The Burmese python is tan or dark-colored with several dark-brown blotches bordered by black towards the back. This snake mimics the same pattern as that of a giraffe. The immatures measure two feet long at birth.
Where to Find Burmese Pythons
Burmese pythons are native to Asia and can be found throughout southern and southeast Asia. They have also been seen in the southeastern parts of Bangladesh, Nepal, India, China, Thailand, and the islands of Bali and Java.
Burmese pythons gained a foothold in the United States around 20-40 years ago after exotic pet pythons were released or escaped into the wild. Many Burmese pythons now live in Florida as invasive species. There could be more than 300,000 of them residing in the state.
They prefer inhabiting the grasslands, rocky foothills, jungles, river valleys, woodlands, swamps, and marshes. These pythons e are good swimmers and can stay in water for up to 30 minutes, but they spend most of their time on land.
Burmese pythons are solitary species and only pair up during the breeding season. They breed early in spring, and sexually mature females can lay up to 100 eggs per clutch in a year.
How Long Do Burmese Pythons Live?
Burmese pythons are known to live for a relatively long time, with a lifespan of around 20-25 years in captivity and possibly shorter in the wild. They are one of the longest snakes in the world and can reach lengths of up to 18-26 ft (5.5-8 m) and weigh up to 200 lbs (90 kg).
They are also known to be one of the heaviest snakes in the world. They are hardy animals that can adapt well to captivity, and with proper care, they can live long and healthy lives.
What Do Burmese Pythons Eat?
The diet of Burmese pythons primarily consists of foxes, raccoons, opossums, mountain goats, and numerous species of birds. They are predominantly carnivores. They kill prey by constriction, then swallow it whole. Burmese pythons stay still, waiting for prey to approach, then strike rapidly.
In captivity, Burmese pythons mainly eat commercially available rats. They are also fed rabbits and poultry, depending on their size. Burmese hatchlings eat one to two mice in three to four days before graduating to more giant rats. Adults eat one or two larger prey every 5-7 days.
How Does the Diet of Burmese Pythons Impact the Ecosystem?
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Burmese pythons are “one of the most concerning invasive species” in Florida. They eat native animals and compete with other non-native wildlife for food. The Burmese have been implicated in the decline and disappearance of several species of animals in Everglades National Park. The recent significant population decline of foxes, raccoons, bobcats, and opossums is directly linked to the Burmese python invasion.
As a result, the state introduced a python elimination program in 2017 to combat the spread of Burmese pythons since they are known to reproduce rapidly. Registered snake hunters are awarded money for catching a Burmese python, which is calculated based on the size and sex of the Burmese python. The FWC and SFWMD jointly manage the program.
So far, this program has removed more than 5,000 invasive Burmese pythons from the Everglades ecosystem, said SFWMD.
Are Burmese Pythons Venomous?
Burmese pythons are non-venomous snakes. Unlike other venomous snakes that attack by injecting venom, they kill an animal by squeezing it to death. They are typically afraid of people and generally avoid them but will bite when mishandled. Virtually all bites occur when these pythons are intentionally bothered. Although the Burmese python does not possess any venom that is harmful to humans, its bite causes severe lacerations that require immediate medical attention.
How Many People Have Been Killed by Burmese Pythons?
Giant constricting snakes killed 16 people in the United States between 1978 and 2009. Seven of these deaths were attributed to the Burmese pythons in captivity. There have been no recorded human deaths from wild-living Burmese pythons in Florida. They seem to pose little threat in the wild. Researchers say they have only found one death report of a free-ranging Burmese python that killed an infant in Hong Kong about a century ago.
What Other Snakes Are Found in Florida?
Here are six other snakes that are present in Florida:
1. Timber Rattlesnake
Timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) are venomous snakes found in northern Florida in the Suwannee River Basin and extreme northeastern Panhandle. They inhabit the pine flatwoods, thickets, hardwood forests, and the edges of wet prairies and swamps.
Adults usually grow to 3-7 feet long and weigh between 1.1 and 3.3 pounds. Large specimens weigh as much as 9.9 pounds. They are gray, sometimes with a pinkish hue, and have a stripe down their backs.
2. Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
The eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus) is a pit viper species often found in coastal barriers, sand pine scrub areas, turkey oak hammocks, and pine flatwoods in Florida. It’s one of the most venomous snakes in America, and the largest of the rattlesnakes, measuring between 2 and 8 feet. Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes can be muddy gray, olive green, or blackish-gray. Their tails are gray and banded with dark rings.
3. Pygmy Rattlesnake
Pygmy rattlesnakes (Sistrurus miliarius) are among the smallest snakes in Florida. They are venomous snakes that are found throughout the state. They grow up to 16-24 inches in total length. Their color pattern varies from light to dark gray, with a reddish-brown stripe running down the middle back.
4. Florida Cottonmouth
Florida cottonmouths are heavy-bodied snakes that live near water. They often wander far from the water and have occasionally been found in trees and bushes. The average length of an adult Florida cottonmouth is 30-48 inches. These snakes have a pattern of light brown and dark brown crossbands that contain multiple dark blotches and speckles.
5. Eastern Copperhead
Eastern copperheads are pit vipers found in the Panhandle, particularly in the western tip along the Apalachicola River and its tributaries. They have distinctive light brown to gray crossbands overlaid with dark brown to reddish-brown crossbands. The eastern copperhead grows to a typical length of 20-27 inches, with a record of 53 inches.
6. Harlequin Coral Snake
Harlequin snakes (Micrurus fulvius) are highly venomous coral snakes that are found throughout Florida and in every county. These snakes can be found in hammocks, dry scrublands, forests, and near wetlands. They have distinctive red and black rings separated by narrow yellow rings. Their body scales are smooth and shiny. They grow up to 20-30 inches in total length.
Burmese Pythons vs. Crocodiles
The Burmese python is not a native species in Florida. However, they are found often around the Everglades in South Florida. Native to Southeast Asia, Burmese pythons were first brought to the United States as exotic pets. Some pet owners ended up releasing the snakes into the wild, and the problem began.
The American crocodile, or Crocodylus acutus, generally populates South Florida. They can be found in coves, ponds, and creeks in mangrove swamps, and they typically inhabit saltwater or brackish areas.
Pythons are often longer than crocodiles, reaching up to 26 feet long, while crocodiles usually aren’t more than 20 feet long. However, crocodiles do have the size advantage, as they tend to be much heavier.
Both pythons and crocodiles have the ability to stay submerged underwater for stretches of time. However, crocodiles are much faster, being able to run up to about 25 miles per hour in some cases. Pythons only slither at about one mile per hour.
Given the vital stats of both competitors in this fight, the crocodile would probably be the winner. Of course, pythons are not completely powerless. If they’re able to get past a crocodile mother and eat crocodile eggs, they can prevent crocodiles from even getting to the fight in the first place.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Heiko Kiera/Shutterstock.com
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