Reticulated pythons are not native to Florida and are considered an invasive species due to their impacts to native wildlife. Like all nonnative reptile species, reticulated 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 25 public lands in south Florida.
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In addition, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) lists reticulated pythons as an Injurious Species under the Lacey Act, preventing the importation of these constrictor snakes into the United States.
Reticulated pythons, a nonvenomous constrictor species not native to Florida, hold the record as one of the world’s longest snake species. Females generally reach greater lengths than males with most wild specimens reaching around 13-16 feet, although some rare examples may exceed 20 feet. Typical specimens weigh about 30-40 pounds with a max reported weight of 300 pounds for a female specimen. Generally lighter than other species of pythons, reticulated pythons have a blotchy, net-like color pattern covering their bodies consisting of white, tan, brown, yellow, and red scales. The snake’s two defining characteristics include a straight dark line down the middle of their skull and red-orange irises surrounding vertical pupils. These pythons usually have angular skulls and their mouths contain high amounts of small backward facing teeth for holding prey.
Reticulated python’s prefer a wet, tropical climate. They may inhabit seasonally dry areas, but do not occur in continuously dry or very cold habitats. Though usually found in habitat adjacent to rivers, streams, or other water-bodies, they may also frequent cave areas, trees, or ground areas concealed in vegetation.
Reticulated pythons mate seasonally and females may not lay every year. Females usually lay clutches of 20-40 eggs; however, clutch size is dependent on body size and large females may lay over 100 eggs. Female pythons surround their clutches during incubation, protecting them from light, the environment, and predators. The average lifespan of these snakes is not known in the wild but some in captivity lived close to 30 years.
These pythons eat a broad range of animals as their prey including wild boar, birds, fish, rats, chickens, smaller primates in their native range in Asia, and almost any other animal fauna they can consume.
The reticulated python’s native habitat ranges from southern and Southeast Asia, to as far south as Indonesia and as far north as parts of India and China. These snakes inhabit elevations ranging from sea level to over 4300 feet.
Reports of reticulated pythons originate from as far north as Largo near Tampa though most sightings occur in southeast Florida, in and around Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Observations of these pythons most likely stem from released or escaped pets and the species has not yet been introduced into Florida's environment. See where the species has been reported in Florida.
Reticulated pythons compete with native species for food and habitat. Due to the wide ranging diet of the reticulated python, they may consume federally listed species, such as burrowing owls and other birds of concern as well as wading birds and mammals. Reticulated pythons may prey upon domestic pets and livestock; however, the python’s small numbers throughout Florida indicate a relatively low potential for impact and their preference for wet and warm habitats mean they will be unlikely to migrate much further north. The highly seasonal nature of their reproduction also limits their potential for damage as they may go years without reproducing.
Frequently Asked Questions
How is the FWC managing reticulated pythons?
The FWC takes actions to reduce regulatory barriers to nonnative reptile removal and encourages their harvest from privately owned properties and FWC managed lands.
What if I own a reticulated python I can no longer care for?
Released pets remain a primary source of introduced species in Florida. Through the Exotic Pet Amnesty Program, pet owners who are either unable to care for their exotic 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.
Should I report reticulated python sightings?
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission encourages reports of reticulated python sightings. You can help by taking a picture, noting the location, and reporting this information using the free IveGot1 mobile app, calling IVE-GOT1 (888-483-4681), or by reporting online at IveGot1.org.