Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Python bivittatus
(Burmese python)

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Datasheet

Python bivittatus (Burmese python)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 26 March 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Python bivittatus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Burmese python
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Reptilia
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Python bivittatus (sometimes considered a subspecies of P. molurus) is a large snake, native to south-eastern Asia. As a result of the escape or release of individual snakes kept as pets, it is establi...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Python bivittatus (Burmese python); adult. Everglades National Park, Florida, USA.
TitleAdult
CaptionPython bivittatus (Burmese python); adult. Everglades National Park, Florida, USA.
Copyright©Skip Snow/National Park Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY- NC 3.0 US
Python bivittatus (Burmese python); adult. Everglades National Park, Florida, USA.
AdultPython bivittatus (Burmese python); adult. Everglades National Park, Florida, USA. ©Skip Snow/National Park Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY- NC 3.0 US
Python bivittatus (Burmese python); adult, head, showing teeth. Laboratory photograph. Florida, USA.
TitleHead, showing teeth
CaptionPython bivittatus (Burmese python); adult, head, showing teeth. Laboratory photograph. Florida, USA.
Copyright©Lori Oberhofer/National Park Service/bugwood.org - CC BY- NC 3.0 US
Python bivittatus (Burmese python); adult, head, showing teeth. Laboratory photograph. Florida, USA.
Head, showing teethPython bivittatus (Burmese python); adult, head, showing teeth. Laboratory photograph. Florida, USA.©Lori Oberhofer/National Park Service/bugwood.org - CC BY- NC 3.0 US
Python bivittatus (Burmese python); an American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) and a python locked in a struggle to prevail in Everglades National Park, Florida. The python appears to be losing, but snakes in similar situations have apparently escaped unharmed and, in other situations, pythons have killed alligators.  Florida, USA.
TitleSpecies conflict
CaptionPython bivittatus (Burmese python); an American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) and a python locked in a struggle to prevail in Everglades National Park, Florida. The python appears to be losing, but snakes in similar situations have apparently escaped unharmed and, in other situations, pythons have killed alligators. Florida, USA.
Copyright©U.S.National Park Service/Lori Oberhofer
Python bivittatus (Burmese python); an American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) and a python locked in a struggle to prevail in Everglades National Park, Florida. The python appears to be losing, but snakes in similar situations have apparently escaped unharmed and, in other situations, pythons have killed alligators.  Florida, USA.
Species conflictPython bivittatus (Burmese python); an American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) and a python locked in a struggle to prevail in Everglades National Park, Florida. The python appears to be losing, but snakes in similar situations have apparently escaped unharmed and, in other situations, pythons have killed alligators. Florida, USA.©U.S.National Park Service/Lori Oberhofer
Python bivittatus (Burmese python); immature, captured in Everglades National Park, Florida, USA.
TitleImmature
CaptionPython bivittatus (Burmese python); immature, captured in Everglades National Park, Florida, USA.
Copyright©Lori Oberhofer/National Park Service/bugwood.org - CC BY- NC 3.0 US
Python bivittatus (Burmese python); immature, captured in Everglades National Park, Florida, USA.
ImmaturePython bivittatus (Burmese python); immature, captured in Everglades National Park, Florida, USA.©Lori Oberhofer/National Park Service/bugwood.org - CC BY- NC 3.0 US
Python bivittatus (Burmese python); an adult python has captured and ingested American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) then died. Everglades National Park, Florida, USA.
TitleInterspecific conflict
CaptionPython bivittatus (Burmese python); an adult python has captured and ingested American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) then died. Everglades National Park, Florida, USA.
Copyright©Michael Barron/National Park Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY-NC 3.0 US
Python bivittatus (Burmese python); an adult python has captured and ingested American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) then died. Everglades National Park, Florida, USA.
Interspecific conflictPython bivittatus (Burmese python); an adult python has captured and ingested American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) then died. Everglades National Park, Florida, USA.©Michael Barron/National Park Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY-NC 3.0 US
Python bivittatus (Burmese python); predated American bobcat (Lynx rufus) claw retrieved from a python gut. Everglades National Park, Florida. Florida, USA.
TitleInterspecific conflict
CaptionPython bivittatus (Burmese python); predated American bobcat (Lynx rufus) claw retrieved from a python gut. Everglades National Park, Florida. Florida, USA.
Copyright©Skip Snow/National Park Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY-NC 3.0 US
Python bivittatus (Burmese python); predated American bobcat (Lynx rufus) claw retrieved from a python gut. Everglades National Park, Florida. Florida, USA.
Interspecific conflictPython bivittatus (Burmese python); predated American bobcat (Lynx rufus) claw retrieved from a python gut. Everglades National Park, Florida. Florida, USA.©Skip Snow/National Park Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY-NC 3.0 US
Python bivittatus (Burmese python); wood rats and radio collar retrieved from the gut of a python. Everglades National Park, Florida., Florida, USA.
TitleInterspecific conflict
CaptionPython bivittatus (Burmese python); wood rats and radio collar retrieved from the gut of a python. Everglades National Park, Florida., Florida, USA.
Copyright©Skip Snow/National Park Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY-NC 3.0 US
Python bivittatus (Burmese python); wood rats and radio collar retrieved from the gut of a python. Everglades National Park, Florida., Florida, USA.
Interspecific conflictPython bivittatus (Burmese python); wood rats and radio collar retrieved from the gut of a python. Everglades National Park, Florida., Florida, USA.©Skip Snow/National Park Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY-NC 3.0 US
Python bivittatus (Burmese python); rooster (domestic chicken) found in the gut of a python. Florida, USA.
TitleInterspecific conflict
CaptionPython bivittatus (Burmese python); rooster (domestic chicken) found in the gut of a python. Florida, USA.
Copyright©Lori Oberhofer/National Park Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY-NC 3.0 US
Python bivittatus (Burmese python); rooster (domestic chicken) found in the gut of a python. Florida, USA.
Interspecific conflictPython bivittatus (Burmese python); rooster (domestic chicken) found in the gut of a python. Florida, USA.©Lori Oberhofer/National Park Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY-NC 3.0 US
Python bivittatus (Burmese python); radio-tagging for further research.
TitleResearch
CaptionPython bivittatus (Burmese python); radio-tagging for further research.
Copyright©Lori Oberhofer/National Park Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY-NC 3.0 US
Python bivittatus (Burmese python); radio-tagging for further research.
ResearchPython bivittatus (Burmese python); radio-tagging for further research.©Lori Oberhofer/National Park Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY-NC 3.0 US
Python bivittatus (Burmese python); pathway cause for an invasive species: 'granite pattern' python for sale at a reptile show. Perry, Georgia, USA.
TitlePathway cause
CaptionPython bivittatus (Burmese python); pathway cause for an invasive species: 'granite pattern' python for sale at a reptile show. Perry, Georgia, USA.
Copyright©Rebekah D. Wallace/University of Georgia/Bugwood.org - CC BY-NC 3.0 US
Python bivittatus (Burmese python); pathway cause for an invasive species: 'granite pattern' python for sale at a reptile show. Perry, Georgia, USA.
Pathway causePython bivittatus (Burmese python); pathway cause for an invasive species: 'granite pattern' python for sale at a reptile show. Perry, Georgia, USA.©Rebekah D. Wallace/University of Georgia/Bugwood.org - CC BY-NC 3.0 US

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Python bivittatus Kuhl, 1820

Preferred Common Name

  • Burmese python

Other Scientific Names

  • Python bivittatus bivittatus Kuhl, 1820
  • Python molurus bivittatus Linnaeus, 1758

International Common Names

  • English: India python
  • Spanish: Piton birmana
  • German: Dunkler Tigerpython

Summary of Invasiveness

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Python bivittatus (sometimes considered a subspecies of P. molurus) is a large snake, native to south-eastern Asia. As a result of the escape or release of individual snakes kept as pets, it is established and invasive in southern Florida, USA, where it has probably been established for at least three decades. The distribution of pythons in Florida covers thousands of square kilometres and continues to expand. The primary ecological impact is on native vertebrates that may be consumed as prey; several dozen species of prey have been removed from more than 2000 pythons collected and removed so far, including federally and/or state protected/managed species (e.g. Key Largo woodrat Neotoma floridana, American Wood Stork Mycteria americana, American alligator Alligator mississippiensis) and species with limited distributions (Limpkin Aramus guarauna, Round-tailed Muskrat Neofiber alleni). There are reports of a population of P. bivittatus in Puerto Rico, a US territory in the Caribbean, but these remain as yet unconfirmed.

In 2010, P. bivittatus was listed as a conditional reptile species by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, prohibiting acquisition for personal possession and requiring reptile dealers, public exhibitors, researchers, and nuisance trappers to apply for a permit to import or possess pythons. In 2012, it was listed as an injurious species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, prohibiting importation into the U.S. except by permit for zoological, educational, medical, or scientific purposes. Elsewhere in the U.S., regulations on ownership of P. bivittatus and other large constrictors are highly variable both among and within states. Possession in some countries (e.g. Australia) is prohibited. All boas and pythons are included in Appendix II of CITES, largely to allow monitoring of the trade in reptile skins.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Chordata
  •             Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •                 Class: Reptilia
  •                     Order: Serpentes
  •                         Family: Boidae
  •                             Genus: Python
  •                                 Species: Python bivittatus

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The Burmese Python, Python bivittatus or Python bivittatus bivittatus, was previously recognized as a subspecies of the Indian python (P. molurus). Jacobs et al. (2009) elevated it to species status, albeit with little new supporting evidence (Schleip and O’Shea, 2010; Reed et al., 2012). Some authors still recognize it as P. m. bivittatus (e.g. Crother, 2017), but Powell et al. (2016) and many others use P. bivittatus. In the past, P. molurus sensu lato has been divided into subspecies recognizable primarily by colour pattern (Barten et al., 1985; Ross and Marzec, 1990). Populations in southeastern Asia, Nepal, and northern India are referred to as Python bivittatus bivittatus, Python bivittatus, or Python molurus bivittatus, having a darker overall coloration, an arrowhead marking on the top of the head that does not fade anteriorly, and the presence of a scale row between the supralabials (upper lip scales) and the oculars (single ring of scales at the margins of the eye). Various researchers have found these characters to be undiagnostic (Rooij, 1917; Mertens, 1930), and as P. molurus sensu stricto and P. bivittatus are parapatric (abutting but not overlapping), introgression between it and P.molurus is often assumed to occur frequently enough for the combined population to qualify as a species (Underwood and Stimson, 1990; Kluge, 1993; Welch, 1994; Walls, 1998; McDiarmid et al., 1999; Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), 2008). However, the species concept is in flux and some herpetologists, especially those focused on herpetoculture (Daniel, 2002; O’Shea, 2007; Barker and Barker, 2008), recommend splitting into two species at the contact line. In captivity, these two species hybridize and produce healthy offspring (Townson, 1980), but the ability to exchange genes successfully is considered a plesiomorphic character and does not prevent taxa from qualifying as distinct species. This datasheet uses P. bivittatus. Jacobs et al. (2009) also recommended recognizing the subspecies, the Dwarf Burmese Python, P. bivittatus progschai, from Java, Bali, Sumbawa, and Sulawesi.

Description

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P. bivittatus is a very large (>6 m total length), heavy-bodied snake (175 kg), although the figures on maximum size are disputed and/or based largely on captive specimens (Murphy and Henderson 1997, Barker et al. 2012; see next paragraph for more detail). Females grow larger than males. As with many pythons, several scales on the snout contain obvious heat-sensing pits. The body has dark, black-bordered, brown dorsal and lateral blotches separated by tan coloration that extends to the belly; a dark triangular region or spearhead on top of the head; a white line that extends posteriorly under the eye; and a light-coloured belly bordered by black spots. Considerable variation exists among individuals, and several aberrant colour ‘morphs’ (albino, ‘green’, ‘granite’, ‘labyrinth’, etc.) have been produced by reptile breeders (information in this paragraph compiled from Smith, 1943; Groombridge and Luxmoore, 1991; Walls, 1998; Reed and Rodda, 2009).

Authorities have engaged in extensive discussion of the large size attained by the Burmese and Indian Pythons (Oliver, 1959; Pope, 1961; Minton and Minton, 1973; Ernst and Zug, 1996; Murphy and Henderson, 1997; Walls, 1998; Bellosa, 2003, 2004; Zug and Ernst, 2004; Bellosa et al., 2007), despite having relatively few data (large specimens rarely reach museums, for practical reasons). Estimates of the maximum size of a species depend on the size of the sample of measurements obtained (though rumours of rare but gargantuan snakes abound), and credible measurements are sparse when museums do not preserve a large series or large individuals (Zug and Ernst, 2004; Manthey and Grossman, 1997). Many experts state that P. bivittatus over 5 m in total length are exceptionally rare in the field (Ernst and Zug, 1996; Murphy and Henderson, 1997), although there is a recent record of a captive-reared specimen 8.22 m in total length (Bellosa, 2003). Useful references on this topic are: Wall (1912, 1921); Smith (1943); Lederer (1956); Schmidt and Inger (1957); Pope (1961); Acharjyo and Misra, 1976, 1980; Mierop and Barnard (1976); Ernst and Zug (1996); Walls (1998); Cox et al. (1998); Zug and Ernst (2004); and Bellosa et al. (2007).

Distribution

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P. bivittatus occurs from southeastern China and Vietnam westward, across much of Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and Bangladesh, with patchy distributions in Bhutan, Nepal, and northern India (Minton, 1966; Groombridge and Luxmoore, 1991; Khan, 2006, Li et al., 2009; Barker and Barker, 2008). It is also found on the Indonesian islands of Java, Bali, Sumbawa and Sulawesi (although only part of the latter), but not in the intervening region (Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia and southern Thailand). The Distribution table in this datasheet is based on data reviewed by Rodda et al. (2009) and Reed and Rodda (2009). Barker and Barker (2008) argued for a somewhat more restricted distribution, partially relying on non-peer-reviewed or unpublished information about current distributions.

An introduced population is present in Florida (USA), with unconfirmed reports of another in Puerto Rico.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

BangladeshWidespreadNativeSmith, 1943; Kock and Schröder, 1981; Das, 1996Present throughout most of country, although P. molurus may be present along the western border with India
BhutanLocalisedNativeGroombridge and Luxmoore, 1991Distribution poorly known. May be found in lower elevations along the southern border, but literature is vague on this subject
CambodiaWidespreadNativeGroombridge and Luxmoore, 1991; Manthey and Grossmann, 1997Apparently found throughout
ChinaLocalisedNativeLin, 1983; Liu, 1986; Zhao and Adler, 1993; Zhong, 1993; Ji and Wen, 2001; Reed and Rodda, 2009Distribution poorly documented and hotly disputed among authorities. Present across much of southern China, including Hainan Island. Presence in Sichuan Province at higher latitudes appears undisputed, but presence in the region between Sichuan and southern China is disputed. There are also records to the north of the Sichuan Basin. Some consider Sichuan Basin and perhaps other populations to be isolates or the result of human introductions
IndiaLocalisedNativeWall, 1912; Whitaker, 1993; Das, 1996; Whitaker and Captain, 2004P. molurus was historically distributed almost throughout India. P. bivittatus is found in the Terai region along the border with Nepal, as well as in the states of Orissa and West Bengal, and along the border with Bangladesh. Distribution is now certainly reduced due to human persecution.
IndonesiaLocalisedInger and Tan, 1996; Manthey and Grossmann, 1997; Auliya, 2003; Reed and Rodda, 2009Confirmed only on Java, Sumbawa, Bali and the SW corner of Sulawesi, although probably present on smaller islands in this area. Some authors hypothesize that all or some of these insular isolates are the result of human introductions.
LaosWidespreadNativeDeuve, 1970; Manthey and Grossmann, 1997Found throughout, except perhaps at highest elevations in the north
MyanmarWidespreadNativeAuffenberg, 1994; Manthey and Grossmann, 1997; Zug et al., 1998; Pauwels et al., 2003Widespread through much of the country at elevations below about 2000 m although presence along eastern and western borders of northern half of Myanmar is disputed
NepalLocalisedNativeSwan and Leviton, 1962; Malla, 1968; Zug and Mitchell, 1995; Kabisch, 2002; Schleich and Kästle, 2002P. molurus is found throughout lowland areas of the country, but the exact distribution of P. bivittatus is poorly understood; it appears to be parapatric in some areas. Some authorities consider the Nepalese distribution to comprise disjunct patches, while others consider it continuous along the Terai region abutting the Himalayan uplands.
ThailandWidespreadNative Not invasive Taylor and Elbel, 1958; Cox, 1991; Cox et al., 1998; Chan-ard et al., 1999Found throughout, except for southern half of Isthmus of Kra
VietnamWidespreadNativeCampden-Main, 1970; Groombridge and Luxmoore, 1991; Ziegler, 2002Found throughout, except perhaps at highest elevations

North America

USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-FloridaLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Snow et al., 2007b; Harvey et al., 2008Present across thousands of square km of southern Florida, principally south of Lake Okeechobee but with increasing numbers of records north of the lake. Several records from the Florida Keys, especially Key Largo.

Central America and Caribbean

Puerto RicoPresent, few occurrencesIntroducedISSG, 2007Establishment unconfirmed

History of Introduction and Spread

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The population of P. bivittatus in southern Florida, USA, is the only one known to be introduced, established and invasive. Individuals have been captured in Florida for several decades, but the population only became obviously widespread from the mid-1990s onwards (Snow et al., 2007b). Although one individual was found in 1979 along the northern boundary of Everglades National Park, establishment probably resulted from an independent introduction near Flamingo during or before the mid-1980s (Meshaka et al., 2000; Willson et al., 2011). Most early records were from southwestern portions of the Everglades National Park (near Flamingo), supporting the notion that the population originated with captives that were taken to the end of the park road and released illegally. Since becoming established, pythons have been found from Big Pine Key northwards to Jacksonville but are currently believed to be established only in southern Florida from Lake Okeechobee southwards to Florida Bay and Key Largo (Krysko et al., 2011). These areas include Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Monument, and Collier County to the northwest and multiple individuals found as far north as the northerly margins of Lake Okeechobee. Whether individuals along the margins of the known population represent dispersal or recent releases/escapes of captives can be difficult to distinguish, as there are no external signs that allow recent captives to be distinguished from dispersers from the main population (for example, wild pythons in southern Florida are typically in excellent body condition, with few scars or external parasites, and captives may not have been implanted with passive integrated transponders as recently required by Florida state law). Willson et al. (2011) considered a 2008 population size in Florida of 10,000-100,000.

While there are several reports indicating an established population in Puerto Rico, an insular territory of the USA (ISSG, 2007), little information is available that would allow evaluation of this conclusion.

Some authors (e.g., Barker and Barker, 2008) have opined that populations in Sichuan, China may be introduced, but such opinions are at odds with much of the peer-reviewed literature.

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Florida 1980-1995 Pet trade (pathway cause) Yes No Reed and Rodda (2009)
Puerto Rico   Pet trade (pathway cause) No No ISSG (2007)

Risk of Introduction

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Global trade in live P. bivittatus is considerable, with about 300,000 individuals imported to the USA alone between 1977 and 2008 (Reed and Rodda, 2009). While pythons could conceivably enter transportation pathways as inadvertent contaminants, the vast majority are moved internationally for the pet trade. Once in captivity, they grow quickly, eventually requiring large cages and increased maintenance costs for food, etc. Very large individuals are difficult to sell or even give away in the United States, and numerous records of free-ranging individuals from all over the USA (Crother, 2017) indicate that releases and/or escapes are not uncommon. Using an established risk assessment process, Reed and Rodda (2009) concluded that both risk of establishment and likely magnitude of impacts are high for this species in the United States. Deliberate releases for rodent control or other purposes are possible, but are relatively unlikely as compared to releases or escapes due to the pet trade. The current scientific consensus is that large portions of the southern United States and many other subtropical and even temperate regions of the globe appear to exhibit climatic conditions similar to those experienced by P. bivittatus in its native range (Rodda et al., 2009; Wilgen et al., 2009; but see Pyron et al., 2008 for an alternative perspective), suggesting that establishment of additional populations is possible. Continuing international and domestic trade in the species, including shipment by air freight, suggests that the risk of such establishment is not trivial.

Habitat

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It is evident both from the wide range documented and the informal habitat descriptors mentioned in the literature that P. bivittatus occurs in virtually every habitat from lowland tropical rainforest (Indonesia, southeastern Asia) and grasslands (Sumbawa, India) to montane warm temperate forests (Nepal, China). Zug and Ernst (2004) describe the habitat as mangrove to montane. Smith (1943) mentions both upland and riparian habitats. Murphy and Henderson (1997) state: "rain forest, mangrove swamps, savanna, scrub forests and semideserts". The species often uses aquatic habitats (Wall, 1921; Smith, 1943). Some populations live in areas that experience freezing temperatures; they are unable to survive prolonged exposure to such temperatures, but escape cold weather by escaping to burrows, deep water, or other thermal refugia. In Florida, P. bivittatus is found in rockland hammocks, tree islands, pine rocklands, cypress strands, freshwater prairies, sawgrass prairies, sandy uplands, melaleuca (Melaleuca quinquenervia) and Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius) stands, agricultural areas, saline glades, estuaries, mangrove swamps, offshore islands, and on spoil mounds from excavated exotic vegetation removal as well as oolitic limestone levees along manmade canals (also see Snow et al., 2007c). Pythons are captured primarily on roads and levees where they are easily seen, but radiotelemetry suggests that these locations reflect where humans typically search rather than their preferred habitat (Hart et al., 2015). Three GPS-tracked adults used pine rockland, slough, tree island, coastal, lowland forest, disturbed, and marsh prairie habitats, but they were detected most frequently in slough and marsh prairie habitats within their home ranges (Hart et al., 2015).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Cultivated / agricultural land Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Natural
Disturbed areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Buildings Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Buildings Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural forests Principal habitat Natural
Natural grasslands Principal habitat Natural
Riverbanks Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Principal habitat Natural
Wetlands Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Wetlands Principal habitat Natural
Land caves Present, no further details Natural
Rocky areas / lava flows Present, no further details Natural
Scrub / shrublands Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Deserts Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Arid regions Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Littoral
Coastal areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Coastal areas Principal habitat Natural
Mangroves Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Mangroves Principal habitat Natural
Intertidal zone Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Intertidal zone Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Salt marshes Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Salt marshes Present, no further details Natural
Freshwater
Irrigation channels Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Irrigation channels Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Lakes Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Lakes Principal habitat Natural
Reservoirs Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Rivers / streams Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rivers / streams Principal habitat Natural
Ponds Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Ponds Principal habitat Natural
Brackish
Estuaries Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Estuaries Principal habitat Natural
Lagoons Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Lagoons Principal habitat Natural

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

Little information is available on genetic variation within the native range of P. bivittatus. Collins et al. (2008) reported on genetics of the introduced population in Florida, but their results offered few insights into the geographic origin of the population or its genetic variation. Environmental DNA (eDNA) has recently emerged as a molecular tool for determining the presence of P. bivittatus from extremely low quantities of DNA in the environment; see the ‘Detection and Inspection’ section for more detail.

Reproductive biology

Females in their native range can produce 8-107 eggs per clutch (Wall, 1921; Reed and Rodda, 2009). Frye and Mader (1985) report on an extraordinary male captive that matured in five months, at a total length of 1.7 m. This is consistent with Wall’s (1921) assessment of male maturation occurring at 1.7 m (all unqualified length measurements in this work are total length). However, females are reported (Wall, 1921; Lederer, 1956; Branch, 1988) to mature at around 2.6 m, which implies a greater age at female maturation or faster female growth. Pope (1961) argues that males may mature in 2 years and females in 3 years; Walls (1998) asserts 3 years. Ross and Marzec (1990) state: “They can reach ten feet [3 m] in length by one year of age if overfed, and can reach sexual maturity at 18 months to two years. With more appropriate growth, sexual maturity is reached at 2 ½ to 3 years.” These latter rates are a reasonable expectation for normally-fed animals. The smallest known mature Florida female was 1.85 m in snout-vent length and 5.1 kg in weight (Willson et al., 2014). Males probably mature at shorter lengths.

Copulation with the male is not essential for development of viable eggs in P. bivittatus (Durnford, 2003; Groot et al., 2003). Instead, the female apparently has the ability to fertilize her eggs with her own genetic material, though it is not known how often this occurs in the wild. Several captive studies reported viable eggs from females kept for many years in isolation. The length of time between copulation and oviposition (gestation) has not been measured in the wild, and may vary with locality; reports vary from two to four months.

Reproductive phenology (the time of year when reproductive events occur) is expected to vary with locality (especially latitude), but has been quantified only in Florida (Snow et al., 2007b,c; Krysko et al., 2008), where breeding occurs in December-March (Snow et al. 2007c, Krysko et al. 2008). The general pattern in areas of seasonally-reduced activity seems to be for courtship to occur as air temperatures begin to warm. Most observers assume that P. bivittatus produces a maximum of one clutch a year. Indeed, it is possible that energetically-challenged females may be unable to reproduce every year in some localities; this possibility has not been examined in the wild. It is probable that males attempt to mate numerous times annually in all localities. Adult males are encountered more often than adult females, possibly because they actively search for mates. Breeding aggregations consisting of a single female and up to 7 males have been observed in March-April (Smith et al., 2015).

Females in Florida lay 11-87 eggs in April-May; eggs hatch in June-August after 55–60 days of incubation (Brien et al., 2007; Snow et al., 2007b, 2007c; Krysko et al., 2008, 2012; Willson et al., 2014). A female remains coiled around her clutch without feeding and can increase her body temperature 6-8 °C above ambient temperature by shivering thermogenesis (Mierop and Barnard, 1978), which helps maintain eggs at 28-30 °C, their minimum developmental temperature (Vinegar, 1973). A brooding female in southern Florida was found to successfully regulate her clutch temperature both above and below ambient temperatures (Snow et al., 2010). Florida hatchlings averaged 58 cm (23 in.) in snout-vent length and 65 cm (26 in.) in total length (Krysko et al., 2012).

Post-hatching growth is among the fastest recorded for snakes, with captive individuals approaching 200 mm/month, though typical rates are 70-100 mm/month. One extraordinary individual was recorded as growing 245 mm/month (Frye and Mader, 1985). Growth rate declines with age; Parker (1963) expressed the trajectory as an increase in total length of 170% in the first year and 70% in the second.

Longevity

Captives have lived for more than 30 years.

Nutrition

P. bivittatus is a predator on a very wide variety of vertebrates, but primarily consumes mammals and birds. Large pythons are capable of consuming large prey, and prey recovered from P. bivittatus digestive tracts (in either the native or invasive range) has included a leopard, alligators, antelope, dogs, deer, jackals, goats, wild pigs, pangolin, bobcat, great blue herons, wrens, langur, flying fox, and woodrats (Meshaka et al., 2004a; Snow et al., 2007a, 2007c; Harvey et al., 2008; Reed and Rodda, 2009 and references therein; Dove et al., 2011; Krysko et al., 2012; Boback et al., 2016; Mazzotti et al., 2016). At the small end of the size spectrum are items such as wrens and mice. It appears that P. bivittatus will eat any bird or mammal of an appropriate size, as well as some reptiles.

Associations

Little is known of possible symbionts or similar floral/faunal associations.

Environmental requirements

Although exact knowledge of the distributional limits of P. bivittatus remains incomplete, the literature suggests that pythons may occur up to 2000 m elevation in some parts of their range and that populations persist in fairly cool climates, including the Himalayan foothills and Sichuan Province of China (Whitaker and Captain, 2004; Rodda et al., 2009).

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
A - Tropical/Megathermal climate Preferred Average temp. of coolest month > 18°C, > 1500mm precipitation annually
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
B - Dry (arid and semi-arid) Tolerated < 860mm precipitation annually
C - Temperate/Mesothermal climate Preferred Average temp. of coldest month > 0°C and < 18°C, mean warmest month > 10°C
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
32 9

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration08number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall1044395mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Winter

Notes on Natural Enemies

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American Alligators (Snow et al., 2007b), monitor lizards (Auffenberg, 1994), jackals (Bhupathy and Vijayan, 1989), and humans (Murphy and Henderson, 1997) are documented predators or scavengers of pythons. Presumably, eggs and hatchling pythons experience the greatest vulnerability, due to their small size. Adult pythons are relatively invulnerable to predators, except when they are digesting a large meal (Wall, 1921; Murphy and Henderson, 1997). Predators that specialize on pythons are unknown, suggesting that biological control by introduction of a predator is unlikely to be effective.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural dispersal (non-biotic)

P. bivittatus is an excellent swimmer and has been observed swimming in salt water between offshore islands; it may be able to tolerate saline water for extended periods (Hart et al., 2012).

Accidental introduction

Rare instances of accidental introduction via air or surface shipping may have occurred, but if so they are poorly documented.

Intentional introduction

Global trade in live P. bivittatus is considerable, with about 300,000 individuals imported to the U.S. alone between 1977 and 2008 (Reed and Rodda, 2009). Intentional transportation of live pythons for the pet trade is the overwhelmingly dominant pathway of introduction.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Botanical gardens and zoosOrigins in multiple native-range countries, present in many zoos worldwide Yes Yes Bellosa et al., 2007
Breeding and propagationBred for pet trade in many countries, primarily USA/Europe; sold domestically and internationally. Yes Yes Bellosa et al., 2007; Reed and Rodda, 2009
Pet tradeMost individuals probably originally imported from SE Asia Yes Yes Auliya, 2003; Snow et al., 2007b
ResearchConsidered a 'model organism' for physiological research Yes Yes Secor and Diamond, 1998
Self-propelledCapable of crossing expanses of salt or fresh water to reach islands, etc. Yes Harvey et al., 2008

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Cultural/amenity Positive and negative
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Negative
Human health Negative

Economic Impact

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The infestation of P. bivittatus in Florida is relatively recent, and an accurate tally of economic damage has not yet been completed. Potential economic impacts could include loss of domestic or companion animals, automobile accidents resulting from collisions with pythons (as is frequently the case for alligators), disease resulting from python transmission of pathogens or hosting of pathogen vectors, damage to electrical or other infrastructure systems, impacts on tourism, loss of hunting or birdwatching opportunities, etc. (Reed and Rodda, 2009). The only available economic study was by Smith et al. (2008), who estimated economic costs associated with predation on native species to exceed $80,000 per year for a single Burmese Python in the Everglades, with costs accruing due to python predation on species that are economically important, especially those listed by the U.S. Endangered Species Act and which have dollar values attached at a per-individual level.

Environmental Impact

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Impact on habitats

It is unlikely that P. bivittatus will exert a direct negative impact on habitats, as it does not consume vegetation. However, it may potentially exert indirect impacts on habitats via its predation on vertebrates, resulting in changes to community structure. No studies have attempted to examine whether such changes are occurring.

Impact on biodiversity

Over 30 species of native vertebrates have been recovered from the digestive tracts of P. bivittatus in Florida. Mammals and birds are most commonly consumed, including deer, wading birds, meso-predators, rodents of all sorts, and songbirds. Numerous alligators have also been recovered, including individuals of up to 2 m total length. Federally endangered species recovered from pythons have included Wood Storks (Mycteria americana) and Key Largo Woodrats (Neotoma floridana smalli), along with several species considered of special concern by the state of Florida (Limpkin Aramus guarauna, Round-tailed Muskrat Neofiber alleni, etc.; Snow et al., 2007a). Some species appear to be declining precipitously in python-occupied habitat (e.g. N. alleni), but a general lack of knowledge of pre-python baseline population sizes of prey species makes it difficult to assess such statements.

Severe declines (well over 90% in some cases) in the numbers of several mammal species encountered on roads in the Everglades National Park have been recorded; these declines coincided with python proliferation (Dorcas et al., 2012; McCleery et al., 2015; Sovie et al., 2016). McCleery et al. (2015) and Sovie et al. (2016) showed direct evidence of the impact of pythons on marsh rabbits in carefully controlled experiments. These mammal declines may result in fundamental restructuring of food webs in the Everglades (Reichert et al., 2017).

P. bivittatus has probably introduced lung pentastome parasites, Raillietiella orientalis, to Florida, where this parasite now infects native snakes (Miller et al., 2018).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Ammodramus maritimus mirabilisNational list(s) National list(s)FloridaPredationReed and Rodda, 2009
Aramus guaraunaNational list(s) National list(s)FloridaPredationSnow et al., 2007a
Crocodylus acutus (American crocodile)VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable) VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesFloridaPredationReed and Rodda, 2009
Eudocimus albusNational list(s) National list(s)FloridaPredationSnow et al., 2007b
Felis concolor coryiNational list(s) National list(s)FloridaPredationReed and Rodda, 2009
Neofiber alleniNational list(s) National list(s)FloridaPredationSnow et al., 2007a
Neotoma floridana smalliNational list(s) National list(s)FloridaPredationGreene et al., 2007
Odocoileus virginianus clavium (Key deer)National list(s) National list(s); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesFloridaPredationReed and Rodda, 2009
Oryzomys palustrisNational list(s) National list(s)FloridaPredationReed and Rodda, 2009
Peromyscus gossypinusNational list(s) National list(s)FloridaPredationReed and Rodda, 2009
Sylvilagus palustris hefneri (Lower Keys marsh rabbit)National list(s) National list(s); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesFloridaPredationReed and Rodda, 2009
Oryzomys palustris natator (rice rat)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesFloridaPredationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2007

Social Impact

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Fear of snakes is largely irrational, and therefore the actual risk of attacks on humans by pythons is likely to be far outweighed by perceptions of elevated risk. If the presence of large invasive pythons induces humans to change their behaviour patterns (e.g., staying away from natural areas, reducing trips to national parks, keeping children indoors), then the net social impact could be considerable. However, no studies have addressed this topic.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact outcomes
  • Altered trophic level
  • Negatively impacts human health
  • Negatively impacts animal health
  • Negatively impacts livelihoods
  • Negatively impacts tourism
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Predation
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally illegally
  • Difficult to identify/detect in the field
  • Difficult/costly to control

Uses

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Economic value

Python meat and skins are used in parts of the native range, and skins are traded internationally in the leather industry. P. bivittatus comprises a relatively small proportion of this trade compared to Reticulated Pythons (P. reticulatus) and other species (Groombridge and Luxmoore, 1991). Although some people in Florida have proposed large scale harvesting of invasive P. bivittatus for skins, such collection efforts are recent and thus far probably fewer than 100 skins have been processed. International and domestic trade in live Burmese Pythons as pets is considerable, with approximately 300,000 imported to the USA over the last 40 years and domestic production of thousands of captive-reared juveniles (Reed and Rodda, 2009). Although P. bivittatus is a very small component of the overall reptile trade, even as compared to some other python species (e.g., Ball Pythons, P. regius -- Reed, 2005), it represents a net economic benefit to some importers and breeders.

Social benefit

Giant constrictors constitute an important element of the large and growing trade in living reptiles. For many snake owners, these snakes exhibit beauty, companionability, and educational value. Close contact with living things engenders a connection with nature that might not otherwise be possible. Thus, the social value of protecting native ecosystems must be weighed against the social value of fostering positive attitudes about the protection of nature through giant constrictor ownership.

Environmental services

In its native range, P. bivittatus may control rodent pests in agricultural settings and around some human habitations. Its utility for such services in the invaded range has not been specifically examined, although pythons recovered from agricultural fields in Florida often contain multiple rats.

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Meat and bonemeal

General

  • Botanical garden/zoo
  • Laboratory use
  • Pet/aquarium trade
  • Research model
  • Ritual uses
  • Souvenirs
  • Sport (hunting, shooting, fishing, racing)

Human food and beverage

  • Meat/fat/offal/blood/bone (whole, cut, fresh, frozen, canned, cured, processed or smoked)

Materials

  • Skins/leather/fur

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore

Diagnosis

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No methods have been proposed or enacted for laboratory techniques to detect or identify this species.

Detection and Inspection

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Differentiating P. bivittatus from some other species in the live reptile trade can be difficult, necessitating careful scale counts and examination of minor details of colour or pattern (Walls, 1998, Reed and Rodda, 2009). DNA methods are much more reliable, as sequence data is diagnostic at the species level (Piaggio et al., 2014; Hunter et al., 2015; Reeves, 2017; Reeves et al., 2018; K.L. Krysko, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA, unpublished data).

Environmental DNA (eDNA) has recently emerged as a molecular tool for determining the presence of P. bivittatus from extremely low quantities of DNA in the environment. Piaggio et al. (2014) and Hunter et al. (2015) introduced the first eDNA methods for detection of P. bivittatus in aquatic habitats in Florida, and the former protocol was used successfully to detect the presence of P. bivittatus DNA in field-collected water samples to document its range expansion in areas where it has not yet been found (K.L. Krysko, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA, unpublished data). In addition to water samples, other eDNA applications have used gut contents of blood-feeding invertebrates as sources of eDNA in Florida. Reeves (2017) and Reeves et al. (2018) analyzed DNA sequences of mosquito blood meals which illustrated that these native insects feed on P. bivittatus; this may be a method for improving the field-detection of introduced pythons.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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While a number of large constrictor snakes bear a colour pattern resemblance to P. bivittatus, the species is most likely to be confused with the closely related giant African pythons (Python sebae and P. natalensis), which are less common but still present in international trade. P. bivittatus has more strongly defined body markings than either of the African species, and it also tends to have lower midbody, ventral, caudal, supralabial, and infralabial scale counts than the African species (although these fields tend to be at least somewhat overlapping; Branch and Erasmus, 1984; Broadley, 1984; Reed and Rodda, 2009).

Prevention and Control

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Prevention

SPS measures

There appear to be no published methods for quarantine or certification associated with importation of P. bivittatus. However, ownership is regulated by various means in many areas of the world.

In 2010, P. bivittatus was listed as a conditional reptile species by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, prohibiting acquisition for personal possession and requiring reptile dealers, public exhibitors, researchers, and nuisance trappers to apply for a permit to import or possess pythons. In 2012, it was listed as an injurious species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, prohibiting importation into the U.S. except by permit for zoological, education, medical, or scientific purposes. Elsewhere in the U.S., regulations on ownership of P. bivittatus and other large constrictors are highly variable both among and within states. In some countries (e.g. Australia) possession is prohibited. All boas and pythons are included in Appendix II of CITES, largely to allow monitoring of the trade in reptile skins.

Early warning systems

No specific measures have been instituted for P. bivittatus. However, a telephone hotline for reporting sightings of giant constrictors (pythons, anacondas, boas, etc.) and other exotic animals has been instituted in Florida, and has resulted in the recovery of numerous large snakes from suburban and natural areas (Harvey et al., 2008; A. Higgins, The Nature Conservancy, USA, personal communication, 2008, 2009; K.L. Krysko, formerly of University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA, personal communication, 2019).

Rapid response

There is no specific rapid response team set up for responding to sightings of P. bivittatus, although personnel from several agencies are available to respond to calls from the telephone hotline in Florida mentioned above. Excellent templates for development of a rapid response team for snakes are available (e.g., Stanford and Rodda, 2007).

Public awareness

Several public awareness programmes have addressed threats posed by P. bivittatus and prevention of establishment of populations elsewhere. A significant proportion of this effort has been directed at the northern Florida Keys, with both governmental and non-governmental agencies cooperating to raise awareness of the issue so as to detect and intercept pythons dispersing from the mainland. There are also a number of more general programmes in the U.S. designed to educate pet owners and give them alternatives to disposing of pets by releasing them. These include the Habitattitude (http://www.habitattitude.net/) programme jointly run by governmental and pet industry programmes, Pet Amnesty Days run by the state of Florida during which owners can donate unwanted pets with the assurance that they will be humanely treated, and other programmes.

Eradication

Willson et al. (2011) considered a 2008 population size in Florida of 10,000-100,000. More than 2000 pythons had been removed from the wild in Florida by 2012 (US National Park Service, undated), and nearly 1000 more have been removed since then.

Reed and Rodda (2009) reviewed the utility of a wide range of potential control tools for eradication of widespread populations of giant constrictors, including P. bivittatus, and concluded that no available tools (including combinations of these tools) are currently likely to be sufficient for eradication. This conclusion was due to the low detection probability of pythons (they are secretive and cryptic), low movement rates (reducing the number of encounters with control tools), high fecundity, rapid growth, and other factors. At a more local scale, eradication of incipient populations may be possible, but in order to have a good chance of success, eradication efforts must take place while the population is still small and localized.

Eradication efforts have indeed been largely unsuccessful. Attractant traps captured only some pythons that may have been present in the area being trapped, although trap success may improve under different ecological conditions or with technological improvements (Reed et al. 2011).

Control

Cold weather and depleted food resources are probably more effective at controlling populations over a broad area than human efforts. Record prolonged cold temperatures in January 2010 killed many pythons and other native and nonnative species (Mazzotti et al., 2011), but python populations recovered quickly. Some pythons exposed to prolonged cold temperatures exhibited exploratory or basking behaviour instead of retreating to warm refugia, which may limit the range to southern Florida (Avery et al., 2010, Mazzotti et al., 2011).

Physical/mechanical control

In agricultural areas of Florida east of the Everglades National Park, numerous pythons have been found dead after agricultural fields have been ploughed or disked by tractors. Similarly, a number of pythons have been killed by mowing machines along roadsides or on levees in southern Florida. However, neither of these would be likely to result in population suppression at landscape scales, and the cost per hectare of using such tools for control purposes would likely be prohibitive.

Movement control

Barriers to snake movement (such as snake-proof fences of various designs) have been developed for Brown Treesnakes (Boiga irregularis) and some other species, but trials of their potential efficacy have not been completed for pythons. Because the southern Florida python population is spread across thousands of square kilometres and is still expanding its distribution, fences would need to be enormously long to contain its spread. At a local scale, drift fences that lead pythons to traps have captured a few snakes, but use of these fences has been minimal.

Biological control

Reed and Rodda (2009) reviewed the utility of biological control for eradication of widespread populations of giant constrictors, including P. bivittatus. They concluded that no such tools are available for snakes despite extensive research efforts for Brown Treesnakes (Boiga irregularis) and other known invaders, and that the track record of biocontrol for vertebrate invaders is dismal.

Chemical control

Reed and Rodda (2009) reviewed the utility of chemical control for eradication of widespread populations of giant constrictors, including P. bivittatus. Acetaminophen is registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a toxicant for control of Brown Treesnakes (Boiga irregularis) on Guam, where the toxicant is inserted into dead mice that are placed in the field as bait for snakes. Based on laboratory trials, P. bivittatus also appears to be susceptible to acetaminophen, but the large doses required to kill large pythons would represent potential risks to non-target species that might ingest the bait (L. Clark, National Wildlife Research Center, USA, personal communication, 2009). The key challenge for toxicant application to invasive giant constrictors on the United States mainland is finding a way to prevent harm to non-target species, especially non-target snakes. In the southeastern United States, a special challenge is associated with protecting the Eastern and Gulf Coast indigo snakes (Drymarchon corais and D. kolpobasileus, respectively), which are federally-listed Threatened Species. Because indigo snakes are large (max total length 2.8 m) and have a diet that overlaps with that of the introduced giant constrictors, it is challenging to identify a device that would exclude this particular non-target while poisoning all sizes of giant constrictors. Indigo snakes are of special interest, but many other vertebrates may take poison baits intended for giant constrictors, including most carnivorous or omnivorous birds, mammals, reptiles and larger frogs, and as far as is known all of these native species are vulnerable to acetaminophen toxicity.

IPM

Although IPM will certainly be a part of any programmatic effort to manage P. bivittatus in Florida, thus far an inclusive management plan has not been developed; this is largely due to the unavailability of proven control tools and lack of dedicated personnel.

Hunting

Some land managers in Florida have advocated allowing private individuals to collect invasive pythons on all non-private lands where they occur, with the motivation being sale of meat/skins or payment of a bounty for each snake delivered. There is a market for skins, which are used in multiple leather products (F.W. King, University of Florida, Florida, USA, personal communication, 2009). To prevent breeders from turning in captive-produced hatchlings for a bounty, the bounty payment would need to be lower than the minimum profit point for breeders (hatchlings have sold for as little as $17 in recent years; R.N. Reed, US Geological Survey, Fort Collins, Florida, USA, unpublished data). The level of population control likely to be achieved via such activities is unknown; local control along levees, roads, and other easily-accessible areas may be possible, but landscape-level control is unlikely in areas such as southern Florida where vast areas are largely inaccessible (Reed and Rodda, 2009). A recent editorial in a reptile journal opposed the bounty concept as an effective control tool (Powell et al., 2009).

Researchers have used radio-tagged “Judas snakes” to explore the potential of finding and removing snakes from breeding aggregations (Smith et al., 2016). The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has organized two public hunts for Burmese pythons, with the goals of increasing both public awareness of invasive species and public participation and interagency cooperation in removing pythons from the wild (Mazzotti et al., 2016). The first Python Challenge in 2013 resulted in the removal of 68 snakes, and the second hunt in 2016 removed 106 snakes. A small group of well-managed volunteers is a cost-effective method to remove additional pythons (Rochford et al., 2016).

Monitoring and surveillance (incl. remote sensing)

No validated programme is currently in place for monitoring python presence or abundance. Preliminary trials of infrared technology to detect pythons (using manned or unmanned aircraft, or by humans on the ground) have been inconclusive (D. Hallac, Everglades National Park, Florida, USA, personal communication, 2009).

Ecosystem restoration

Ecosystem restoration is a major goal in the greater Everglades ecosystem, but it primarily addresses restoration of historical surface water flows, etc. No restoration efforts have been proposed specifically to compensate for the presence of P. bivittatus in Florida.

References

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Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior : Burmese Pythonhttp://www.nps.gov/ever/naturescience/burmesepythonresearch.htmSpecies profile
University of Florida - Burmese Pythons in South Floridahttp://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/UW/UW28600.pdfFull title is: Burmese Pythons in South Florida: Scientific support for Invasive Species Management
USGS - Giant Constrictor Snakes in Floridahttps://www.usgs.gov/centers/fort/science/giant-constrictor-snakes-florida-sizeable-research-challengeFull title is: Giant Constrictor Snakes in Florida: A Sizeable Research Challenge
USGS - Giant Constrictorshttps://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2009/1202/pdf/OF09-1202.pdfFull title is: Giant Constrictors: Biological and Management profiles and an Establishment Risk Assessment for Nine large Species of Pythons, Anacondas, and the Boa Constrictor

Organizations

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USA: Everglades National Park, Fort Collins Science Center (NPS-ENP), 40001 State Road 9336, Homestead, Florida 33034-6733, http://www.nps.gov/ever/index.htm

USA: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Division of Habitat and Species Conservation, 620 S. Meridian Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1600, https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/

USA: U. S. Geological Survey, Fort Collins Science Center (USGS-FORT), 2150 Centre Ave, Bldg C, Fort Collins, CO 80526, http://www.fort.usgs.gov/

USA: University of Florida - Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center (UF-FLREC), 3205 College Ave, Davie, FL 33314-7799, http://firec.ifas.ufl.edu/

Contributors

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01/02/2018: Updated by:

Kenneth Krysko, Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, Florida, USA

25/11/09 Original text by:

Bob Reed, US Geological Survey U.S. Geological Survey, Fort Collins Science Center, 2150 Centre Ave, Bldg C, Fort Collins, CO 80525, USA

Gordon Rodda, Invasive Species Science Branch, USGS Fort Collins Science Center, 2150 Centre Ave, Bldg C, Fort Collins, CO 80526, USA

Distribution Maps

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