Escaped Burmese pythons are believed to be severely affecting the Everglades National Park ecosystem by consuming large numbers of native prey animals. These prey animals include federally endangered species (for example Key Largo woodrats and wood storks) and Species of Concern in Florida (for example limpkin and 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 3D movement data from accelerometers is providing a finer-scale habitat-use model than data based on field and flight telemetry alone.
USGS researchers holding a recently recaptured 537 cm (17'7") radio-tagged female Burmese python in Everglades National Park. From left to right: Brian J. Smith, Andrew Crowder, Thomas Selby, and Dr. Kristen Hart. Photo date: 23-April-2012