Federal Agencies Step Up Python Control in Everglades
The National Park Service (NPS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), in partnership with the state of Florida and other stakeholders, are renewing their commitment and expanding existing programs to eliminate Burmese pythons from the Everglades.
"Burmese pythons are an invasive species that have no place in the Everglades and threaten its delicate ecosystem," said Ken Salazar, secretary of the Department of the Interior. "We are committed to aggressively combating this threat, including having trained and well-supervised volunteers hunt down and remove snakes."
"I have also directed my staff to look at the possibility of allocating additional federal resources this fiscal year and I have asked federal and state agencies to work with us to quickly develop an action plan to control this invasive species," he said.
The Burmese python (Python molurus), a large exotic snake, is well-established in the Everglades. Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, and the Water Conservation Areas, represent the core areas of the python infestation.
Pythons have been observed within the largely inaccessible and remote mangrove forests of the parks. Conservatively, scientists believe that only small fractions (0.1-5 percent) of pythons present are detected. Given these challenges, NPS and FWS have recognized the need to consider and implement a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach to python control. These efforts include:
- Expansion of an authorized agent python capture.
- Pilot "Partner with Hunters" Program in Big Cypress National Preserve, which would allow trained, qualified, and licensed hunters the opportunity to terminate pythons, a non-game species, with the use of their firearm if they come across one during the course of their normal hunting activity.
- Everglades' invasive animal response team. NPS is working with FWS and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to establish a federally funded invasive animal rapid response and control team that would provide full-time coordination among the south Florida natural resource management agencies, including field operations, science support, and educational and outreach efforts.
- Risk assessment and review of control methods. FWS and NPS are funding a USGS risk assessment project to help define the nature of the threat and develop biological/management profiles for nine large constrictor snakes.
- Python trap and attractant development.
- Unmanned aerial vehicles and thermal imaging. NPS is working with USGS and the University of Florida to test small, remotely operated airplanes and heat-detecting sensors for use in detecting pythons in the Everglades.
- Mercury bioaccumulation studies. NPS has partnered with USGS to understand mercury concentrations in python tissue because high mercury concentrations may pose a risk to human health if pythons are consumed.
- Reporting mechanisms. NPS established a python hotline for public reporting of python observations.
"Eliminating these exotic pythons in Florida will require a full partnership between federal and state agencies and with the assistance from trained members of the public," said Pedro Ramos, superintendent, Big Cypress National Preserve. "These joint efforts will provide vital information on the animals' movement, habitat use, food sources and other information which will aid in future improvements of eradication methods."