MIAMI (CBS4) – Despite record breaking winter cold snaps and drought, the Burmese python population appears to be prospering in the Everglades.
After last years cold snaps, researchers theorized that many of the Burmese pythons in the glades most likely didn’t survive. Now they are re-thinking that position.
More than two dozen have been caught so far this year and the South Florida Water Management District said it removed six pythons from the Everglades in the last two weeks. The snakes were recovered in areas where they were not previously found.
Zoo Miami’s Ron Magill said having survived two very cold periods in 2010, the Burmese python population could be heartier than ever.
“The snakes that survived of course adapted. Now some, (I) would venture to say, even adapted to deal with future cold freezes, so the freeze is not going to be as effective on the existing snakes as it was previously,” said Magill.
The epicenter for the non-native snakes has been Everglades National Park but now scientists are finding them further north, even above Alligator Alley.
Burmese pythons are top predators known to prey on more than 20 native Florida species.
“Mammals and birds are definitely a possibility,” said Ellen Donlan with the SFWMD. “Deer, endangered species, wood storks have been consumed, bobcats could be, so it’s really almost anything that comes across its path.”
“A large female can easily produce between 20 and 30 eggs, sometimes even more, and those 30 eggs turn into babies and those babies that survive then become reproducing animals – you do the math,” said Magill.
Scientists had hoped the cold weather would have helped control the spread of pythons and other exotic species that pose ecological threats to South Florida’s native plants and wildlife. Instead, it took a toll on some of our area’s native species.
Nearly 250 manatee deaths were recorded in 2010 which set a one-year record for total deaths, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Service. A plunge in ocean temperatures killed off corals in shallow waters from Biscayne Bay through much of the Florida Keys and left hundreds of sea turtles dead or stunned and sick. More than one hundred rare North American crocodiles, about 10 percent of the coastal population, also died from cold exposure.