Florida researchers attached transmitters to Burmese pythons, and now they're showing up inside native snakes

Cottonmouths are what experts call "generalist predators," and are known snake hunters.

click to enlarge Florida researchers attached transmitters to Burmese pythons, and now they're showing up inside native snakes
Photo via ResearchGate
It appears some native snakes are snacking on arguably Florida's worst invasive species.

Last week, Zoo Miami shared the Florida fauna win to their social media, showing
an X-ray image of a cottonmouth, or water moccasin, with a visible Burmese python vertebrae and radio transmitter inside.

"You may have heard in the news about the bobcat that was documented stealing and consuming eggs from an invasive Burmese python in the Everglades. But, that isn’t the only native species that is fighting back!," said the zoo in a Facebook post.

Invasive Burmese pythons have been decimating Florida wildlife for nearly 40 years, which has resulted in decreased mammal populations and increased competition for food with natives like alligators and endangered Florida panthers.

Lately, researchers have been tracking the snakes using radio transmitters.

The images of the swallowed python were first published in the scientific journal ResearchGate last December.
According to the findings, the cottonmouth was tracked down by researchers in the Picayune Strand State Forest near Naples on Aug. 3,  2020.

Researchers initially couldn't understand why the transmitter, which was originally attached to a juvenile female python, was pinging from the native cottonmouth, until they picked up the signal three days later and found the same snake again.

The paper also documented a separate instance in Big Cypress National Preserve on May 31, 2021, where another cottonmouth was found with a python transmitter in its stomach.

"Native species’ dietary expansion to include invasive pythons could have some minor ecological impact on either species and could be areas of further research," says the paper.

Cottonmouths are what experts call "generalist predators," and are known snake hunters, consuming at least 27 different species in Florida. For now, it seems we can add Burmese  pythons to the list.

Last June, python hunters with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida captured a record Burmese python, weighing 215 pounds and measuring nearly 18 feet in length.

About The Author

Colin Wolf

Colin Wolf has been working with weekly newspapers since 2007 and has been the Digital Editor for Creative Loafing Tampa since 2019. He is also the Director of Digital Content Strategy for CL's parent company, Euclid Media Group.
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