Three people walking while carrying a python

Ian Bartoszek (far left) and his team caught this 110-pound python in Florida. It’s about half the weight of the 215-pound snake they also caught.

Conservancy of Southwest Florida

Python Patrol

Giant snakes called Burmese pythons have invaded the United States. Scientists are working hard to stop them.

Three scientists were on the hunt in the Everglades National Park in Florida. Using long knives, they cut their way through the thick grass and vines. Finally, the three spotted what they were hunting. There was a very long female python hiding in the bushes! 

The scientists rushed to catch the snake. She whipped her thick tail and tried to escape. The four wrestled for about 15 minutes. The snake finally got tired, and the men carried her to their truck. 

The snake was 18 feet long and weighed 215 pounds. It is the largest Burmese python ever caught in Florida. 

For about 40 years, these pythons have been a threat to the Everglades ecosystem. They are an invasive species. That’s an animal or a plant that is introduced to an area and harms native species. 

Predator Problems

Burmese pythons are from Southeast Asia. They were first seen in the wild in Florida in 1979. Scientists think those first pythons had been pets. They might have been set free by their owners when they got too big. 

The pythons have few natural predators in the Everglades. That means only a few other animals there hunt them as food. So the number of snakes keeps going up. 

On the other hand, pythons eat nearly every animal—even crocodiles. That’s bad news for the Everglades ecosystem. 

The snakes kill by wrapping their bodies tightly around their prey until the animals’ bones break. Then they swallow their victims whole. 

Stop These Snakes!

Lawmakers have tried to solve the python problem. They’ve made it against the law to bring pythons into the U.S. Florida and other states also have laws saying pythons can’t be pets. 

Still, the number of pythons in the wild is out of control. Experts say tens of thousands of them could be living in the Everglades. 

Even though they’re huge, Burmese pythons are hard to find. Their spotted skin blends in with plants. 

“They may be hiding in some grass at your feet, and you’d never know it,” says wildlife scientist Ian Bartoszek. “They’re good at staying out of sight.”

Wildlife officials in Florida have caught more than 5,000 pythons since 2008. Bartoszek says the chances of removing all Burmese pythons from the Everglades are slim. But he’s not giving up. 

“It’s not over till it’s over,” Bartoszek says.

1. Why is the Burmese python considered an invasive species in Florida?

2. Why are Burmese pythons hard to find, according to the article?

3. What are two facts you can learn from the photos that appear with the article?

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