June 25, 2009

Burmese Pythons May Be Heading North

Experts at the Savannah River Ecology Lab in South Carolina are monitoring a group of exotic pythons to determine whether or not they would be able to survive a northward migration.

Each of the ten pythons was found in Florida, where the slithering reptiles have been thriving since 1992. Scientists have implanted radio transmitters to gauge the pythons' body temperature and overall wellbeing in the 400-feet pit.

The test could show how possible it would be for Burmese python populations to travel and flourish in the Southeast, researchers told the Associated Press.

"They of course have an impact on native species," herpetologist Whit Gibbons, a professor of ecology at the University of Georgia and a member of the python project, told the AP.

"If you have a big old python eating five times as much as another species that eats the same prey, it's a competitive thing."

"A 20-foot python, if it grabbed one of us, would bite us and then within just - instantly - seconds, it would be wrapped all the way around you and squeezing the life out of you," he added.

Gibbons said the number of pythons in Florida is in the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands.

Mike Dorcas, a professor at Davidson College in North Carolina, is leading the project in South Carolina alongside the US Geological Service, the National Park Service and the University of Florida.

"The question is really, well, can they survive in a place like South Carolina or North Carolina or Arkansas or Tennessee?" Dorcas said.

Dorcas and his team will wait one year before removing the implanted data chips that will shed light on how well snakes are able to live in cooler temperatures.


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