Saturday, January 7, 2012

Everglades Pythons 01

Burmese Pythons (Python molurus bivittatus) live in Southeast Asia and are the largest subspecies of the Indian Python, reaching up to 20 feet in length. These large constrictors became very popular reptiles in the US pet trade during the late eighties but the mass importation has led to serious ecological problem in South Florida. The small python hatchlings out grow fast their initial setup cage and reaching eight foot in length within three years. Many pet owners no longer wish to care for their snake(s) and some people even decided to release their pythons back into the wild. During Hurricane Andrew, a mass escape of reptiles, including thousands of burmese pythons, from their exotic importers took place in 1992.

Many pythons escaped into the swamps of the Everglades with its perfect subtropical climate and vast food sources. These snakes began to thrive, resulting in a permanent breeding population of Burmese Pythons in South Florida. Burmese Pythons spend the majority of their time hidden in the underbrush. They are nocturnal, ambush predators, feeding meanly on mammals, birds and other reptiles, including alligators and crocodiles. It has been observed that these constrictors turn into opportunistic feeders as well and do not hesitate to devour road kill or other dead animals they come across. In fact, some pythons have learned that road are not just a place to warm their body during the night but a perfect location for catching an easy meal. 

A hungry adult python stalks its prey with fast forward movements, its head slightly elevated and  tongue flickering, picking up the sent particles of possible prey near by. When a possible prey animal is detected the attack is swift with a strike and a bite to the neck, coiling around the prey’s body, tighter and tighter until it eventually dies of asphyxiation. The python starts feeding on the dead animal head first mostly. These procedure can take from a few minutes up to an hour depending on the size of the prey. Burmese pythons feed frequently on alligators and crocodiles but attacking such an apex predator can turn out fatal for even a fully grown python. Alligators and crocodiles are capable of lowering their heart rate down to one or two beats per minutes. This might sometimes “trick” a python into feeding on a “dead” alligator, which might soon revive and putting up a “fight” from inside the python.

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