Slinking in the competition, measuring in at 23 feet, weighing up to 200 pounds, with a girth as large as a telephone pole–in the blue corner, we have Monty the Burmese Python. The Burmese python, or Python molurus bivittatus, is native to Southeast Asia. Like the first round contender, the Nile Monitor lizard, they were brought to the States for the pet trade. Many animal enthusiasts see a cute, 20-inch baby python and decide to take it home. However, within a year, that baby could grow to be more than 5 feet long. Once these unsuspecting pet owners find that they’ve bitten off more than they could chew, they either release them or sell them to irresponsible owners; or if they can’t ensure the growing threat is containment, the snake follows the footsteps of Connery and Eastwood to perform an impossible escape, slithering its way down to the Everglades in search of a bountiful habitat. On an Orlando airboat guided tour you may bump into this unsavory character.
As a young hatchling, these snakes spend most of their time up in the trees, avoiding predators and feasting on small creatures. When their size and weight make tree-climbing more of a hassle than a necessity, they adapt to a ground-dwelling lifestyle. In the air, on the ground, and in the water? That’s right; the Burmese python is an excellent swimmer, capable of submerging itself for up to 30 minutes at a time.
A Burmese python preys on rodents, raccoons, rabbits, deer, bobcats, various birds, and they’ve even been seen consuming alligators. Not only are these non-native invaders disrupting the natural food chain, but their voracious appetite is thwarting conservation attempts for Everglades species like the Key Largo wood rat, American Wood Stork, and American Alligator.
When reproducing, the Burmese python lays a clutch of up to 100 eggs with the average clutch holding and hatching 35 eggs. Once the nest has been built and the eggs laid, female Burmese pythons coil around the clutch, remaining with the young until they hatch. Not only is the female incubating her eggs, but she’s also protecting them from thieves and scavengers.
This aggressive and powerful serpent is a hefty foe. They use their sheer strength to outmuscle opponents, constricting their blood- and air-flow. To hold their prey in place, they have a muscular jaw, filled with hundreds of back curving teeth. Even the largest and most aggressive animals can’t break loose of a Burmese python’s grasp. Burmese pythons have even been reported attacking their handlers, with some instances leading to human fatality. While they may have poor eyesight, their do have a chemical receptor in their tongue and a heat sensor along their jaw, making no animal safe from a prowling Burmese python.
While this contender may outweigh its opponent, don’t discount the fire ant just yet. The next Fauna Face-Off is sure to be a close battle, filled with maneuvers and counter maneuvers by both parties. For a fun-filled Orlando airboat guided tour visit Wild Florida today. If you keep an eye out, you may see the Burmese python slinking through the water or the trees.
Who do you think will win between the Burmese python and the Fire Ant in the upcoming Fauna Face-off? Weigh in on the discussion and tune in to the Wild Florida blog page this Friday for the results.