MIAMI (AP) -- Scientists say last year's prolonged cold snap reduced the number of pythons, which threaten native life, in the Florida Everglades - but not as much as they hoped it would.
A total of 322 pythons were captured in the park last year, but that was just a 10 percent drop from 2009, said David Hallac, Everglades National Park's biological resources chief.
"That actually shocked me," Hallac said. "We couldn't believe how many snakes were coming in. At a minimum, I was thinking maybe a 50 percent drop."
The January 2010 cold snap was the coldest 12-day stretch since the 1940s, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures in the Everglades never rose above 50 degrees during that time.
At least 244 manatees were killed by cold, leading to a one-year record for total deaths, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Service.
A plunge in ocean temperatures killed off corals in shallow waters from Biscayne Bay through much of the Florida Keys and left hundreds of sea turtles dead or stunned and sick. The 100-plus carcasses of rare North American crocodiles represented about 10 percent of the coastal population.
Peter Frezza, Everglades research manager for Audubon of Florida in the Keys, counted roughly 90,000 dead snook over the course of about a dozen trips across Florida Bay and into the Everglades. Snook fishing remains restricted on the Gulf Coast, in Monroe County and in Everglades National Park.
Scientists had hoped the cold weather would help control the spread of Burmese pythons and other exotic species that pose ecological threats to South Florida's native plants and wildlife.
Exotic fish such as Mayan cichlids and spotted tilapia experienced die-offs during the cold snap, but canals and other warmer refuges have sheltered enough of the fish in past freezes to maintain the population, said Kelly Gestring, director of the FWC's Non-Native Fish Research Laboratory in Boca Raton.
"It's probably going to be a temporary reduction," Gestring said.
Pythons are continuing to show up in the Everglades, scientists said.
"Right now, the numbers aren't all that different," said Everglades National Park biologist Skip Snow. "We're finding them in the same places we've been finding them."
A 15-foot-long female was found in the park in March, weeks after the freeze. Water managers bagged a 13 1/2-foot-long male Burmese python in a west Miami-Dade County canal last week.
Information from: The Miami Herald, http://www.herald.com
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