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Spread of Burmese pythons in Florida worries wildlife officials

In 2012, officials captured a 17.5-foot Burmese python pregnant with 87 eggs.
By Brooks Hays   |   July 15, 2014 at 5:05 PM   |   Comments

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MIAMI, July 15 (UPI) -- Florida officials estimate there are likely now thousands of Burmese pythons slithering their way stealthily through the Everglades. What began as a few dozen escaped pet pythons is now an escalating problem.

The invasive species has been reproducing in the wilderness of South Florida for over a decade now, and wildlife officials continue to field reports of dozens of new python eggs.

Although the pythons are generally not dangerous to humans, they do prey on native species of the Everglades, including birds, baby deer and even alligators. They can destroy habitat and feed on endangered species.

According to the Nature Conservancy, at least 25 bird species, including the endangered wood stork, have been identified in the digestive tracts of the proliferating snakes.

"They're not here to harm us they're just sort of expanding their range, so we're looking to document that range expansion of this non-native invasive reptile," said Ian Bartoszek, a biologist with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

In 2012, officials captured a 17.5-foot python in Everglades National Park. Upon examination, biologists found the female snake was pregnant with 87 eggs.

Officials have also noted an increase in sightings of another invasive snake, the African rock python, which is more aggressive. Biologists are concerned its spread is the result of Burmese and African pythons interbreeding.

Last year, a family found their Siberian Husky in the back yard strangled to death by an African rock python.

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