The Burmese Python is one of top 5 largest snakes in the world and can reach lengths greater than 18 feet in the wild. In captivity they can grow quickly and this young, former pet python that we have on display is well over 19 feet and weighs over 350 pounds. It was offered to us after the owner could no longer take care of it.
While Pythons are considered relatively docile, large snakes become difficult to handle and maintain. Many have been released into the wild in Florida by owners who were incapable of
caring for them. The US Geologic Survey released a range map in 2008 that shows where Pythons have been found to date.
Biologists estimate there are over 30,000 Burmese Pythons living in Florida. Pythons are constrictors, feeding on appropriate sized mammals including the endangered Everglades Mink and Mangrove Fox Squirrel. Females lay up to 90 eggs per clutch and are quite protective of their young - making predation by raccoons, opossums and other nest raiders tough.
In over 600 tours I have led, I have only seen 2 dead Burmese on the Tamiami Trail in the Miccosukee Reservation. Both sightings happened to be the same day but more and more Pythons are seen each year.
Not only are invasive snakes a threat to the ecosystem they now inhabit - wild Pythons could soon become a threat to nature lovers enjoying the same habitat. Various places around the Internet lit up today with comments of people terrified to visit the Everglades. While it's acceptable to be concerned about the wildlife in the place you may visit, I would suggest terror might be an over exaggerated emotion in this situation. We live among Alligators with little conflict. We can do so with Burmese Pythons if we must.
A small, light-colored 12-foot Boa Constrictor rests on top of a 19-foot Burmese Python
The difficulty will be controlling their populations. Currently there is no effective way to control let alone eliminate the giant snakes. Secluded nest sites and large clutch sizes result in high survival rates. We can assume the population will grow as long as the climate remains the same.
What is utterly unacceptable is the irresponsibility of pet owners. Large snakes such as Anacondas, Burmese Pythons and Reticulated Pythons require permits to possess such snakes but there are no doubt many who shirk this legality (including the man in this incident). These snakes should always be kept secure and under no circumstance should a child ever be left where such a snake could harm them. Sadly it has happened before and it will probably happen again. People are stupid.
Sea World may want to update their "Fun Facts".