With the recent discovery of a female rock python and two hatchlings west of Miami, the African reptile is now an official invasive species in the State of Florida. Officials fear that the rock python—which grows to over 20 feet long has been known to kill humans in its native habitat—could invade the Everglades, which are already infested with the similarly sized, and similarly invasive, Burmese python.
Rock Pythons Have Reproduced In Florida
What’s one more huge, predatory snake species in Florida, you might ask? After all, as many as 100,000 Burmese pythons are already gobbling up native wildlife in the Everglades, and while African rock pythons grow to be the same size as their Burmese (Asian) cousins, they don’t get a whole lot larger.
Well, the rock python is a more aggressive snake, with more of a track record for attacking humans in its native habitat. For instance, just this year a Kenyan man named Ben Nayaumbe was seized and dragged into a tree by a 16-foot rock python that then tried to swallow him. He only escaped because he was able to use his cell phone to call for help.
“[Rock pythons] are so mean they come out of the egg striking,” said Kenneth Krysto, senior herpetologist for the Florida Museum of Natural History.
Also, officials fear that if rock pythons ever reached the Everglades—so far they’ve only been spotted in one small area west of Miami—they might mate with Burmese pythons and create a hybrid race that posed even more of a danger to humans and wildlife.
Feral rock pythons have been turning up occasionally in the Miami area since 2002. But the recent discovery of a mother rock python and two hatchlings means that they are capable of reproducing in the wild, just as Burmese pythons have reproduced and spread throughout the Everglades—and beyond, to the Florida Keys.
Officials say that the rock pythons may have been released by pet owners who had second thoughts after finding out how aggressive they were.
This summer, Florida wildlife officials launched an effort to eradicate—or at least reduce—the population of Burmese pythons in the state. But now they’ve got another invasive, and dangerous, snake to add to their list.
Many invasive animal and plant species from tropics are able to thrive in subtropical Florida because the climate there is similar to that of their native habitat.