Pythons in Florida: Who are you Going to Call?

A second species of python–the African rock python–has been found to be breeding in the Florida wild, National Geographic News reports today.

“Already squeezed by the invasion of the giant Burmese python, Florida now faces what one scientist calls one of the U.S. state’s “worst nightmares,” writes NG News editor Chrstine Dell’Amore. “Africa’s largest snake–the ill-tempered, 20-foot-long (6.1-meter-long) African rock python–is colonizing the U.S. state, new discoveries suggest.” (Read the full story: Python “Nightmare”: New Giant Species Invading Florida.)


Burmese python picture courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

The news follows a spate of recent reports of giant pythons being seized in Florida by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the agency responsible for regulating exotic species in the Sunshine State.

Four-hundred-pound python

A few days ago the FWC seized a pet Burmese python weighing 400 pounds (180 kilograms) and stretching 18 feet long, according to news reports. The snake was taken away from a backyard by authorities after being deemed unsafe.

“Concerns about the size of the snake and whether the chain-link cage she was in was secure enough to contain her, prompted the visit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Friday,” the Telegraph reported.

And only a week or so before that, an anonymous tip to the Wildlife Alert Hotline sent FWC investigators to a Florida residence in search of two illegally kept Burmese pythons.

“What was hidden from the world shocked even investigator Daryl Amerson, a 24-year FWC veteran who thought he had seen it all.” 

“What was hidden from the world shocked even investigator Daryl Amerson, a 24-year FWC veteran who thought he had seen it all,” the FWC said afterward in a statement accompanying the picture below.

“Amerson discovered an 11-foot-long male Burmese python, dwarfed by its female companion, a 17-foot behemoth of the same species that weighed more than 150 pounds.”


Burmese python picture courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

The owner did not have the permits required by state law to keep them, FWC added.

The FWC lists Burmese pythons as reptiles of concern. Burmese pythons have escaped or been released into the Everglades National Park where they are breeding and munching a range of indigenous species that have not evolved protection from such predators. They have even been challenging the alligator to be top of the park’s food chain.

Owners of pythons in Florida are required to have the pets microchipped and must follow specific caging requirements based on the size of the reptile, according to the FWC. They also must keep a written and approved contingency plan in case of escape or natural disaster.

The recently confiscated snakes were taken to a licensed facility.

New rules for captive wildlife went into effect in January 2008. People who owned reptiles of concern prior to the effective date are still required to purchase a permit.

Pet Amnesty Day

The FWC hosts pet amnesty days several times a year. At these events, people who can no longer keep nonnatives as pets can turn them over to the FWC for placement. The next pet amnesty day will be for reptiles of concern only, at Gatorland in Orlando on October 3.

Florida Wildlife Alert Hotline:


The FWC has appealed to residents of the state to report wildlife law violations, by calling the toll-free Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.

Pythons first appeared in South Florida nearly two decades ago, and they now take center stage as efforts to control their proliferation in the Everglades continue by wildlife managers at both the federal and state levels, according to the FWC.

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Pythons in Florida Everglades: Is the Snake Invasion Only Beginning?

The giant snakes were imported to North America as pets, but released or escaped into Florida’s wetlands they are proliferating, challenging alligators for the top of the food chain, and potentially positioning themselves to invade much more of the United States. Conservation biologist Stuart Pimm discusses the problem.




Meet the Author
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn