EVERGLADES (CBSMiami) – A picture is worth a thousand words. That old saying is very true when it comes to a photo posted on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Facebook page which shows an invasive Burmese python constricting a white pelican.
The FWC post reads, “Native wildlife needs your help! Invasive Burmese pythons have no natural predators here, and they’re preying on our native wildlife.”
With a nine-foot wingspan, white pelicans are one of the largest bird species in Florida.
This python was discovered by Matthew Dickey, a field biologist from the University of Florida, who was on a survey for endangered species in Water Conservation Area 3A, just north of Everglades National Park.
CBSMiami.com spoke to Dickey over the phone who explained while surveying for endangered Snail Kites, he stumbled upon the snake constricting the pelican.
“I was pretty shocked, I’ve seen one before in the wild,” he said.
“Unfortunately, it was too late to save this pelican, but we can still make a difference and we need your help!,” states the Facebook post.
White pelicans do not live in Florida year-round, like brown pelicans do. They are winter visitors. They also do not feed the same way. They don’t plunge dive like brown pelicans, but instead float on the surface of the water, submerge their heads and scoop up fish. That makes them a prime target for Burmese pythons, which are semi-aquatic and are often found near or in water.
Burmese pythons are an invasive species in and around the Everglades. More than 3,000 pythons have been removed from the Everglades since 2017, not counting the reptiles removed by the public in python hunts, according to wildlife officials. However, those efforts have not been enough.
Scientists say they have eliminated 99-percent of the native mammals in the Everglades, decimating food sources for native predators such as panthers and alligators. Native populations of bobcats, opossums, raccoons, foxes and rabbits have been devastated.
Because of their large size, adult Burmese pythons have few predators, with alligators and humans being the exceptions.
Burmese pythons are not protected in Florida except by anti-cruelty law. Pythons can be killed on private property with landowner permission and can also be killed year-round and without a permit on 22 public lands in south Florida. The FWC encourages people to kill wild caught pythons whenever possible.