From the Florida Sun Sentinel:
Fears of a new “super snake” emerging in the Everglades grew this week during a hunt to track South Florida’s invasive python population.
A three-day, state-coordinated hunt that started Tuesday so far netted at least five African rock pythons — including one 14-foot-long female — in a targeted area in Miami-Dade County.
Those findings add to concerns that the rock python is a new breeding population in the Everglades and not just the result of a few overgrown pets released into the wild, according to the South Florida Water Management District.
In addition, state environmental officials worry that the rock python could breed with the Burmese python, which already has an established foothold in the Everglades. That could lead to a new “super snake,” said George Horne, district deputy executive director.
In Africa, the rock python eats everything from goats to crocodiles. There have been cases of the snakes killing children.
“They are bigger and meaner than the Burmese python. … It’s not good news,” said Deborah Drum, deputy director for the district’s restoration sciences department.
The concern is that a blended breed of python could pose even more risk of large constrictor snakes spreading in the Everglades, where they add to the strain on native wildlife in South Florida’s shrinking natural habitat.
State officials have estimated thousands of Burmese pythons already have spread through Everglades National Park.
Some are thought to be exotic pets released by people who no longer wished to care for them.
Others are said to have escaped during past hurricanes and then bred new generations in the wild.
South Florida’s string of unusually frigid temperatures flushed more of the snakes out of the wild and onto flood control levees, according to the district.
The snake hunt targets an area near the intersection of Tamiami Trail and Krome Avenue in Miami-Dade County. It includes representatives from the water management district, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Everglades National Park.
Three of the Northern African rock pythons found this week were captured, two got away. One measured 21 inches around the middle.
The African rock python typically has a “nastier disposition” than the Burmese python, said LeRoy Rodgers, a scientist for the South Florida Water Management District and a participant in the hunt.
Well, maybe those unusually frigid temperatures are a good thing.