Tracking Burmese Pythons

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The Burmese Python is an exotic species that has invaded thousands of square kilometers of southern Florida, including virtually all of Everglades National Park. They are believed to be severely affecting this ecosystem by consuming large numbers of native prey animals, including Federally endangered species (for example, Key Largo woodrats, wood storks) and Species of Concern in the State of Florida (for example, limpkin, round-tailed muskrats). A better understanding of the ecological impacts of pythons is required to protect natural resources and prioritize python control efforts. To this end, “Judas” snakes were employed to find additional pythons, identify home ranges, and determine movement patterns across the Everglades. Pythons captured in Everglades National Park were surgically implanted with two VHF transmitters. Field trips, and weekly telemetry flights in a small Cessna 172 aircraft were used to locate new pythons and determine their location and habitat. Suitable females were also implanted with accelerometer and GPS tags. Pairing GPS with the 3-D movement data from accelerometers is providing a finer-scale habitat-use model than data based on field and flight telemetry alone.