Episode 296 – Burmese Python: Invasion of the Swamp Snatchers

“And today we’re talking about a reptile that’s coming in our state trying to take our rabbits! But more on that later…”

A “fish out of water” is someone who feels out of place because their surroundings are not suitable for their designed purpose. The Burmese python is out of place in Florida, but, unfortunately, it’s perfectly comfortable. Sometimes, an animal thrives in an environment that groans under the weight of its presence. But flourishing where you don’t belong is a great way to upset the balance of Life, Death, and Taxonomy. 


  • Massive constrictor snake with a long, thick, muscular body and relatively small triangular head
  • Its body is covered in a linear series of large brown blotches lined with black and separated by tan or yellow gaps for camouflage and pattern disruption (nature hates its straight lines)
  • They have multiple rows of up to 120 backward-facing teeth to lock in prey 
  • Like many snakes, their jaw can unhinge to allow it to swallow prey much larger than its head

Measure Up

Welcome to the beloved Measure Up segment. The official listener’s favorite part of the show! The part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words Measure Up into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com. We don’t have a new Measure Up intro.

Scarlett Boahanson in The Jungle Book


  • 5m (16 ft), 5.79 m (19 ft 0 in) is highest on record
  • How many Colt Pythons (with the largest available barrel-length) go into the length of a  Burmese Python?
  • Hint: The Colt Python was first released by Colt’s Manufacturing Company in 1955. The revolver boasts precision adjustable sights, a smooth trigger, solid construction, and extra metal for added durability. It fires a .357 Magnum caliber round.
  • 28.5 Colt Python barrels. The longest barrel on the Python was eight inches.


  • 75 kg (165 lb)
  • How many pythons go into the weight of the fruiting body of a Phellinus ellipsoideus?
  • Hint: We’re talking about mushrooms, which are the fruiting body of a fungus. The ellipsoideus is native to Hainan Island in the South China Sea.
  • 6.6 Python. The mushroom can weigh up to 500 kg (1,100 lb).

Fast Facts about the Burmese Python


Obviously native to Burma but its natural range extends throughout Southeast Asia including Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Taiwan, India, and even some sports in Malaysia. It loves swampy marshlands with lots of water. However, since they’re often sold as pets when they’re tiny, they make their way into other ecosystems as invasive apex predators when they’re not so tiny. 

Florida has a ton of these. Now along with bears, gators, coyotes, rattlers, and New Yorkers, we’ve added a 20-foot pet gobbler to the top of the natural food chain here.You can bounty hunt these things and get up to $1000 for killing a big’un, but we’re past the point of no return when it comes to eradicating them.


Mammals – all of them. No meal is too large. With their ability to unhinge their jaw and stretch their skin and organs to many times their normal size, pythons can swallow and digest anything they manage to kill.

With a mouth full of up to 120 sharp teeth and a 20-foot body of pure strangling muscle, it can manage to kill pretty much anything in its habitat. Large bears are probably safe but that’s about it. By 2012, the US Department of the Interior reported that, in Florida, sightings of raccoons, opossums, and white-tailed deer were down by upwards of 95%.

Rabbits, foxes, as well as the rare bobcat and even rarer panther are down as well

They also eat birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Pretty much anything. Depending on the meal, they can eat once every two months, sometimes going for as long as a year and a half without eating.

Their digestive systems are essentially switched off once they pass their last meal

Because of this, once they swallow food, their whole digestive system undergoes an extreme makeover. 

Its heart rate and oxygen consumption increases, its heart actually increases in mass, it generates more stomach acid and it basically rebuilds its stomach. It can take as long as two weeks to digest a meal.


They are great swimmers. Can stay underwater for up to a half hour. Can climb trees and has a prehensile tail. You’re not safe no matter where you are.

At least with gators, you’re fine if you’re indoors or in a tree. You’re technically in the clear as long as you’re on land and not super close to water. They’re apex predators and only really need to worry about parasites and diseases.

Major Fact: Invasion of the Swamp Snatchers

Burmese pythons are an infamous invasive species in South Florida. From 1996 to 2006, over 90,000 Burmese pythons were imported into the U.S. for the pet trade.

Hurricane Andrew in 1992 destroyed a python-breeding facility and zoo, allowing escaped snakes to populate the Everglades. Today, they have reached a minimum sustainable population. 

Over 1,330 individuals have been caught in the Everglades.

They are genetically diverging from their Southeast Asian kin. A 2017 genetic study found that the python population consists of a hybrid of Burmese and Indian pythons.

Why are Pythons in the Everglades a Problem?

What’s the big deal? What’s one more snake in the everglades? 

As with many invasive species, pythons are throwing off the balance of the environment around them. The animals that live in the everglades aren’t adapted to live alongside burmese pythons, so predators are struggling to compete with them and prey is struggling to maintain its population.

Everglades mammals, including rabbits, opossums, raccoons, bobcats, and deer, have declined in population by 90% after the python was introduced. Birds have also taken a hit, including the endangered woodstork.

The rare and endangered Florida panther is also threatened by the snakes, which eat its main sources of food. 

Why are Pythons Difficult to Deal With?

While they don’t belong in the everglades, they thrive in the subtropical environment. The wetlands and hardwood hammocks of the everglades provide optimal environments for pythons to hunt and breed. 

Young pythons can disappear into tall grass or water, making them elusive prey for predators that might hunt them when they are small. 

As an invasive species, Florida Fish and Wildlife has given permission to take and kill pythons all year round. And it’s illegal to release pythons that you have caught or purchased. They are only protected by anti-animal cruelty laws.

There is a bounty program that offers cash money to python hunters. If you become a python removal agent, you will be paid an hourly rate of between $13 to $18 per hour. Plus, you receive a bonus for snakes you catch based on size. A four footer is $50 with an additional $25 for each foot beyond that. So, an eight footer is $150.

However, a single female can have 30 or so eggs in it. 

Ending: So set up shop in a new place, pick your battles carefully, and give the closest mammal a big tight hug like the Floridian – I mean Burmese python here in LDT.