Wildlife experts are on the hunt for the elusive Northern African python in Florida, concerned that the snake will wreak havoc on the fragile Everglades ecosystem as an invasive species.
Officials are trying to track down Northern African pythons that are reportedly on the loose in West Miami-Dade, likely pets that either escaped or was released, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission Biologist Jenny Ketterlin Eckles said, according to CBS Miami.
Eckles said Northern African pythons are similar to Burmese pythons, which is also not native to Florida, and they can feast upon native wildlife species and upset the balance of the ecosystems in the Everglades should they establish themselves. On average, they are four feet longer than the Burmese python, reaching an average of 16 feet in length.
The Northern African python is likely eating ducks and rats in west Miami-Dade County, wildlife officials believe. The snakes may start preying on pets.
Officials have found a “good number” in nearby neighborhoods in canals and natural water sources near houses, according to Eckles.
However, the snake is extremely elusive, making it difficult to estimate exactly how many are out there, and only one was found last year. A total of 29 have been discovered since 2001.
The problem has even caused the Fish and Wildlife Commission to create a new position: python hunter. The concern is that if officials can’t reign them in, they would grow to such a large population that they would expand to the Everglades.
The python is a nonvenemous snake that originated in Sub-Saharan Africa, and is one of seven python species, all of which are native to Africa. The Northern African python is one of the largest snakes in the world, along with the anaconda and several other python species. Some specimens have measured 20 feet long.