While snakes are definitely some of the creepiest crawlers on the planet, you’d generally think that the poisonous ones are the most dangerous. And you’d be perfectly right, if you were thinking about humans. But constricting snakes, particularly pythons, have a tendency to wreak havoc on ecosystems when introduced into an environment.
This is because of their incredibly fast mating habits and because of their huge adaptability which allows them to eat pretty much anything and live comfortably pretty much anywhere. And this has become a huge problem for Floridians, as literal tons of escaped pythons are taking over south Florida.
Researchers have collected over 2,000 pounds of snake in the past three months, including a jaw-dropping 140 pounds, 16 feet long male which ended up breaking the state record. The snakes have been messing up the ecosystems in both southeastern and southwestern Florida, as they are not really native to the area.
Most of the animals were either released by owners when they got too big or they escaped from enclosures. They then started mating like rabbits, multiplying and steadily going up the food chain. Researchers have been attempting to control their populations in the past few years, but a new method seems to be yielding satisfying results.
Snitch snakes, as they are called by the team, are snakes implanted with trackers. They are used not only to observe the python habits, but also to lead the researchers to other snakes. Having become the top predators in the area, their numbers have to be controlled so that they don’t entirely wipe out other species, like they almost have with the Everglades marsh rabbits.
The scientists used these snitch snakes to find out where the incredibly stealthy animals are hiding. Impossible to track in nature unless they’re out in the open, the animals have been wiping out armadillo and gopher tortoise populations and using their burrows as mating dens.
Apparently, one of these snakes was tracked to a burrow where the team found eight huge snakes forming a mating ball. With a female able to lay between 24 and 72 eggs at a single time, taking out or capturing some of the pregnant females might actually put a big dent in the snakes’ numbers.
According to Ian Bartoszek, biologist with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and part of the research project along,
It’s not like I’m waving a flag and declaring victory. But we’ve removed over 2,000 pounds of snakes from a fairly localized area. Through active searching and radio telemetry, one little snake busted up multiple breeding aggregations. The ecological impact of these animals is just over the top. We’re starting to get a sense they eat bigger up the food chain.
Image source: Wikimedia