The "largest and longest" Burmese Python tracking study of its kind could provide new insights into how to keep the invasive snake in check.
The recent research reveals the size of the Burmese python's home range, and found they share some habitats with other native snakes, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported.
"These high-use areas may be optimal locations for control efforts and further studies on the snakes' potential impacts on native wildlife," said Kristen Hart, a USGS research ecologist and lead author of the study. "Understanding habitat-use patterns of invasive species can aid resource managers in designing appropriately timed and scaled management strategies to help control their spread."
To make their impressively-complete findings, a team of researchers used radio technology and GPS tags to track 19 wild-caught pythons. They collected 5,119 days of tracking data, which showed the pythons' home range was about 3 miles wide by 3 miles long. The pythons appeared to be prevalent in slough and coastal habitats, and tree islands were the primary feature associated with common-use areas. The longest movements of the snakes occurred most frequently during dry conditions, but were also observed during wet seasons.
Burmese pythons are native to Southeast Asia, but first appeared in South Florida's Everglades National Park in 1979. Since their first appearance, the invasive snakes have spread throughout the park, and may be having a significant effect over the native wildlife.
Invasive species are problematic because they compete with native wildlife for food, and about 50 percent of imperiled species in the U.S. are being threatened by these pests. Florida hosts more exotic species than any other state, and invasive snakes pose one of the highest risks in this region. In the Everglades National Park, wood storks, panthers, and Cape Sable seaside sparrows are of "conservation concern," and have home ranges near to or shared by the range of Burmese pythons.
The findings were published in a recent edition of the journal Animal Biotelemetry.