Abandoned missile base in Florida Keys found to be housing four pythons

By Ben Hooper Contact the Author   |   Feb. 14, 2017 at 9:49 AM

Feb. 14 (UPI) -- A pair of long-vacant military buildings at a Florida Keys missile base were found by researchers to be hosting four Burmese pythons, including a 16-foot female.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said University of Florida researchers and Irula tribesmen from India, who were brought to the state for their snake-catching skills, searched a pair of bunkers at the defunct U.S. military base, which used to house a Nike Hercules missile firing range, after a dog indicated the presence of pythons.

The base closed 30 years ago and was absorbed by the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

"We were in Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge and the dogs indicated that there was python activity in that area," said Christina Romagosa, an assistant research professor at the university. "The dogs sat around the bunker, but they couldn't exactly pinpoint where the odor was coming from."

"The next day, The Irula came to the bunker and went into a shaft at least 10 feet down into the ground. The tribesmen found a 16-foot female Burmese python with two smaller males, and another male snake in a nearby location," she said.

Crocodile Lake manager Jeremy Dixon said "snakes like deep, dark places," as well as black rats, which populate the abandoned base.

Researchers said the Burmese pythons apparently migrated from the Everglades and the species appears to be spreading to the south, which could spell disaster for native Florida Keys animals that haven't developed defenses against the non-native predators.

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