Burmese pythons are slithering farther north. Could the snakes make Tampa home?

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The presence of Burmese pythons has been a growing concern in South Florida as the invasive species kept popping up around homes. Now the snakes are slithering farther north, causing more worry among residents.

On Friday, a passerby found a dead 8-foot-long Burmese python along Collier Boulevard near the intersection of Vanderbilt Beach Road. The finding is one of Collier County’s northernmost discoveries, NBC affiliate WBBH reported.

Collier County sits about 18 miles north of the Everglades National Park, where a majority of the python population is found, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Dr. Andrew Durso, a wildlife biologist with Florida Gulf Coast University, spoke with WBBH about the recent reptile discovery, stating he believes more pythons will soon move to the northern region.

“I think we will begin to see more pythons in this region soon, I would say this is the invasion front. Maybe they can adapt and live in other types of habitats, we don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.

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According to WBBH, Burmese pythons have “reduced many mammal populations in the Florida Everglades by as much as 90% and can be a threat to small pets and animals.”

“It’s going to depend on the availability of prey in more natural areas. We know that rabbits and things have declined in the Everglades, and they’re still common in these areas. For how much longer? Nobody can really say… Maybe the snakes in the Everglades have reached some sort of carrying capacity. When individuals are born, they disperse,” Durso said.

Wildlife trappers who remove Burmese pythons told WBBH that the snakes are more likely to migrate during the summer months as “habitats inside the Everglades change alongside the seasons.”

But how far will the invasive snakes migrate? Is Tampa next up on their list of homes? According to experts, it depends on the snake’s food source.

“It’s all about the food source. If they start losing a food source, the population gets too large, they’re going to start pushing out to gain more ground. It’s an absolute highway. Just like cane toads, the water flows and they swim. Simple as that,” Seth Brattain, who owns and operates invasive removal service SlethReptiles, told WBBH.

He added that his company will get three to five calls a day regarding snakes.

“It’s nuts,” Brattain said.

While there haven’t been many, if any, Burmese python sightings in Tampa, a man did spot a ball python while walking his dog in South Tampa’s Belmar Gardens neighborhood in 2023. FWC officials said they believe the snake was likely someone’s pet that had escaped or had been abandoned.

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With Tampa’s winter temperatures remaining chill, it doesn’t seem likely that Burmese pythons will make the Tampa Bay area home anytime soon, and maybe not ever.

Anyone who runs into what they believe is a Burmese python should keep their distance, take a photo, note their location, and report the sighting to the Exotic Species Hotline at 888-483-4681.

“Don’t try and pick them up. They have 180 razor-sharp hook-shaped teeth. They will bite you, they will cut right into your skin, and if not that they’ll constrict, and you don’t want to get involved in that,” Brattain told WBBH.

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