Surprise Find: Florida Python Ate 3 Deer

This is not good news for the Everglades ecosystem
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 2, 2016 5:25 PM CST
Surprise Find: Florida Python Ate 3 Deer
File photo of a Burmese python.   (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

(Newser) – Wildlife officials in Florida have known for a while that Burmese pythons have been eating their way through the Everglades, but the study of one particular snake has surprised them with the extent of that appetite: The 15-foot female had eaten three white-tailed deer in the 90 days before her capture, reports Live Science. Researchers found the remains of an adult doe and two fawns in the snake's intestines, they report in Bioinvasions Record. (They titled the report "Supersize Me.") That's a relatively short time for a snake to put down three big meals, notes study co-author Scott Boback. "If a python is capable of eating three deer in three months," he marvels, then it clearly raises serious questions about the pythons' impact on the Everglades ecosystem. "We don't even know how many of them are out there."

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What scientists do know is that ever since the Burmese python first surfaced in the area in the 1980s—the reason is unclear, but careless pet owners are generally blamed—the population numbers of raccoons, rabbits, foxes, and other mammals have plummeted. “All these studies are putting together a story that we just can’t ignore anymore,” Boback tells Vox, which takes a more in-depth look at the implications of the python invasion. As to how a python can take down a deer, this video via Naples News of a Florida hunter rescuing a deer in mid-strangle might provide an idea. And Floridians outside the Everglades will likely be unhappy to hear that the snakes appear to be expanding their territory to the Florida Keys and western Palm Beach County, reports the Orlando Sentinel. (State wildlife officials are fighting back with the "Python Challenge.")

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