Burmese pythons are not native to Florida and are considered an invasive species due to their impacts to native wildlife. Like all nonnative reptile species, Burmese pythons are not protected in Florida except by anti-cruelty law and can be humanely killed on private property with landowner permission. This species can be captured and humanely killed year-round and without a permit or hunting license on 32 Commission-managed lands in south Florida.
Effective April 29, 2021
In addition, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) lists Burmese pythons as an Injurious Species under the Lacey Act, preventing the importation of these constrictor snakes into the United States.
The Burmese python is one of the largest snakes in the world. Adult Burmese pythons caught in Florida average between 1.8 m (6 ft) and 2.7 m (9 ft); the largest Burmese captured in Florida measured over 5.4 m (18 ft) in length.
Burmese pythons are tan in color with dark blotches along the back and sides. The blotches look like puzzle pieces or the markings on a giraffe. They have a pyramid-shaped head with a dark, arrowhead-shaped wedge extending toward the nose. If light hits a python’s skin, the skin can give off a bit of a shine from the external environment, but even this is not a regular occurrence depending on the habitat surrounding the python.
Burmese pythons are semi-aquatic and are often found near or in water.
Burmese pythons are generalist predators. A variety of species have been found in their gut contents during necropsies including a variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, and protected species such as the Federally-designated Threatened wood stork and the Federally-designated Endangered Key Largo woodrat. Burmese pythons can consume meals equivalent to 100% their body mass.
India, lower China, the Malay Peninsula and some islands of the East Indies.
A population of Burmese pythons is established in South Florida. Historically, the python population was centered within Everglades National Park in Miami-Dade County. Burmese pythons are currently considered established from just south of Lake Okeechobee to Key Largo and from western Broward County west to Collier County. Any pythons found outside of those areas are likely escaped or released captive animals. The FWC evaluates new reports of pythons from areas outside what is considered the currently established range and releases new information as it is confirmed regarding new locations of establishment and range changes. Due to the cryptic nature of pythons it can take a while to gather enough evidence to confirm new areas of establishment.
Because of their large size, adult Burmese pythons have few predators, with humans being the exception. They prey upon native species and may reduce their populations locally. Research is underway to ascertain the impacts pythons have on native mammal species. While pythons will eat common native species and nonnative species such as Norway rats, they can also consume threatened or endangered native species. For instance, pythons have eaten endangered Key Largo wood rats.
Burmese pythons can pose a threat to human safety. Pythons may also prey upon pets such as cats and dogs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I do if I see a Burmese python?
Report Burmese pythons to the FWC immediately! If you think you see a Burmese python, take a photo, note your location and report your sighting by calling the Exotic Species Hotline at 888-Ive-Got1 (888-483-4681), using the free IveGot1 mobile app or online at IveGot1.org.
How is the FWC managing this species?
Python control and management is a high priority for the FWC. The agency and partners are taking a multifaceted approach, focusing on removal and community engagement. This approach includes:
- Contractor surveys and python removals
- Python Patrol Training
- Florida Python Challenge
- Supporting innovative research to improve our ability to detect and remove pythons.
What if I own a Burmese python I can no longer care for?
Burmese pythons cannot be kept as pets in Florida. Released pets remain a primary source of introduced species in the state. Through the Exotic Pet Amnesty Program, pet owners who are either unable to care for their nonnative pets or who no longer wish to keep them can surrender them with no questions asked and without penalties, regardless of whether those pets are kept legally or illegally. The program helps reduce the number of nonnative species being released into the wild by pet owners and fosters responsible pet ownership.
Can people eat pythons caught from the wild in Florida?
Some Burmese pythons removed from the Everglades that have been tested for mercury levels had high amounts of mercury for human consumption. Though it is not illegal to eat python meat, the FWC cautions that neither the Florida Department of Health nor the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services have stated that python meat is safe to consume.