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Why the Burmese python is the heavyweight champ of the reptile world

Posted by Sam Haught on November 2,2015 10:00:AM

It’s the most notorious snake in Florida.

Yep, the Burmese python definitely has a reputation. It’s one of the world’s largest snakes. It can reach lengths of 26 feet and weigh upwards of 200 pounds. The female is typically larger than the male.

burmese python at Wild Florida

It’s a constrictor, not venomous, so no poisonous fangs. But the Burmese python does use rear-pointing teeth to seize prey in an ambush-style fashion. It then coils its massive body around the other animal, literally squeezing it to death.

As battle royales go in the animal kingdom, this carnivorous snake is definitely a world heavyweight contender. It can take down large animals like deer. Check out this epic fight where an alligator loses to a Burmese python that then swallows it whole. (Most snakes regularly eat animals 75 to 100 times their own size!)

Originally from south and southeast Asia, the snake commonly preys upon mammals, birds, and other reptiles. It inhabits grasslands, swamps, marshes, rocky foothills, woodlands, jungles, and river valleys in countries including Vietnam, Malaysia, southern China, and Myanmar (formerly known as Burma, where the snake gets its name).

The Burmese python was brought to Florida and is now proliferating in the wild. They were imported as exotic pets, and then were either accidentally released or intentionally abandoned.

Our swamps and wetlands provide the perfect breeding ground for the snake to thrive outside captivity. This invasive species is now considered the “snake that’s eating the Everglades.”

It has decimated populations of raccoons, possums, and rabbits in the 1.5 million acre Everglades National Park in South Florida, according to the National Geological Survey. And it’s starting to show up here in Central Florida, in places like Lake Apopka. After all, we are the headwaters of the Everglades.

Scientists fear the snake is adapting to the slightly cooler temperatures up here and could start wreaking havoc further north and eventually invade other parts of the southeastern U.S.

The problem has gotten so bad that that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is again sanctioning a hunt. The state’s second Python Challenge (the first was in 2013) is set to begin in January 2016, with up to $5,000 for the team who captures the most during the month-long contest.  

So with all this in mind, we hope you DON’T see a Burmese python during one of our airboat rides on Lake Cypress here at Wild Florida. It would be thrilling, but it also would signal a big problem for the native animals in the area.

However, we’ve got our very own Burmese python that you can meet up close and personal in our Wildlife Park. Don’t worry, our pythons, Peter and Paul, are well-fed, and we go to great lengths to make sure they can’t escape!

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