Chances are, you’ve heard mention of the growing problem of Burmese pythons in Florida. This massive, exotic species kind of makes the snake problems the rest of us face pale in comparison. Burmese pythons are native to Southeast Asia but have become a problem in Florida as a result of individuals owning them as pets. When these snakes either escape or are released by their owners, they make their way into the wild where they reproduce and wreak havoc on the local wildlife. There are now estimates that tens of thousands of these invasive reptiles exist in southern Florida. As a result, there have been significant reductions in populations of raccoons, deer, certain species of birds and even some crocodiles in this area. To combat this problem, new laws have made it illegal to import these snakes and Florida wildlife organizations are attempting to remove pythons from the area whenever they are found.
Burmese pythons can grow to over 13 feet, making them significantly larger than any snakes native to the United States. Additionally, they not only use venom but also constriction as a method of killing their prey. Burmese pythons are a brownish color with darker brown patches covering their body. Some people say their pattern resembles that of a giraffe.
If you encounter what you think is a Burmese python, absolutely do not try to handle it or even get a closer look. You may consider yourself an expert at offing garden snakes around your yard, but these snakes will quickly and easily overpower you. Quietly and calmly move away from the python. Once you are safely inside your home, you should contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. An online form for reporting a python is available and will help local authorities combat this problem. If you currently own a Burmese python and can no longer care for it but are concerned you will be prosecuted if the pet is owned illegally, Florida has created Exotic Pet Amnesty Days. These events allow you to surrender your exotic pet to authorities without fear of being prosecuted. The next event is being held on September 29, 2012. Find out more about these events here.