As invasive pythons perk up in the heat, state asks for snake-spotting help

This 10-foot Burmese python was captured Monday at a chicken farm in South Miami-Dade by the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Venom Response Team.
This 10-foot Burmese python was captured Monday at a chicken farm in South Miami-Dade by the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Venom Response Team.

To every thing there is a season — including, it turns out, snake activity.

While summer weather might make most South Florida residents lethargic, temperatures in the 90s have the opposite effect on a population that has been plaguing the region for more than a decade.

“Burmese pythons are tropical reptiles, so they’re more active in the warm weather and high humidity,” said Liz Barraco, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “They need that heat and that sun to be able to move around and raise their body temperature.”

Barraco said that by August, most python nests have hatched, so females are on the move and famished.

That’s bad news for the small livestock of Miami-Dade County.

On Thursday, the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Venom Response Team was called out to a Redland farm near Southwest 208th Avenue and Southwest 307th Street where a python had eaten one goat and killed another the night before. The consumed goat was “about the size of an average pit bull,” said Lt. Scott Mullin.

The farmer shot and killed the python, which measured about 11 1/2 feet, Mullin said.

On Wednesday night, the team also picked up a 6 1/2 foot Colombian red-tailed boa constrictor in Hialeah.

Said Mullin, who captured a 10-foot python at a chicken farm in South Miami-Dade on Monday: “It’s been, actually, a busy week.”

He said the season for all snake bites generally lasts from April until October.

“We’re in the peak of the season right now,” Mullin said. “Now until when it starts to cool down in October, they’re going to be more active.”

Barraco said residents who lives near the Everglades should “make their yards less attractive” to the invasive creatures, which includes clearing property, removing excess debris, maintaining the landscaping and getting rid of anything that could attract rodents or other small mammals that pythons would feed on.

But, she said, increased activity could also present an opportunity. Authorities want anyone who spots a snake to take a picture and report it, either by calling 888-IVEGOT1, going online to IveGot1.org or submitting information through the “IveGot1” app.

Yes. “There’s an app for that,” Barraco said.

The reports become part of the Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System, which originally was developed by the University of Georgia Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health to track invasive plants.

But wildlife later became part of the effort, and the python-specific map shows nearly 2,000 reported sightings in Miami-Dade, updated daily as records are verified.

The National Park Service says more than 2,000 pythons — originally introduced as pets that were released into the wild — have been removed from Everglades National Park and areas around it since 2002, adding that the number is “likely representing only a fraction of the total population.”

Authorities hope that tracking python sightings can help manage the population.

“If you think one’s eating your livestock, if you think one’s in the road, we’re just really pushing to get that information,” Barraco said. “We can dispatch somebody to remove it.”

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