The invasive Burmese pythons are eating South Florida's native wildlife at an alarming rate, and efforts to capture and kill the snakes are focused on the breeding females of the species.
"These animals are having a tremendous impact on our native wildlife," said Ian Bartoszek, a biologist with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. "We've seen everything from small pythons eating wading birds and rodents, to actually pythons smaller than (15 feet) eating deer."
Bartoszek and other biologists are using radio-tagged males to track them to the dens of female pythons. He said one tagged male led them to surprising number of other pythons, both male and female.
"We gave his score count 12, 13 snakes that he led us to," Bartoszek said.
Biologists Ian Easterling and Jaimie Kittle performed a necropsy on a 17-foot female Thursday to show how many eggs just one female can lay. Inside, they found 95 eggs.
"These would have all been future pythons this season," Bartoszek said. "By far, this is the largest mass of eggs we've seen in Collier."
Bartoszek said the range of the invasive pythons seems to be expanding.
"They're here," he said. "I believe the range of the Burmese python is north of Okeechobee now."
He said that native species of snakes are often mistaken for smaller pythons, so he urges people to call Florida Fish and Wildlife's Exotic Species hotline - 1-888-IVE-GOT1, or use the IVE GOT1 app.
"Don't kill on first sight," he said. "Take a photo, note your location."
I just published “Disrupting the Burmese python egg-laying cycles” https://t.co/vzGVbxLwAk
— Conservancy of SW FL (@ConservancySWFL) April 14, 2017