11 pythons found tangled up in 500 pounds of ‘mating balls’ in southwest Florida

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Wildlife conservators found 500 pounds of pythons in a single day last month in Collier County, Florida.

The 11 Burmese pythons were found on Feb. 21 in three different breeding aggregations, or “mating balls,” that contained one female snake and multiple male snakes, according to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

This was a record daily capture for the conservancy, which has been researching and removing snakes from the environment for over 10 years.

Conservancy wildlife biologist, Ian Bartoszek, with a large mating ball of pythons captured in southwest Florida.
Conservancy wildlife biologist, Ian Bartoszek, with a large mating ball of pythons captured in southwest Florida.Courtesy of Conservancy of Southwest Florida

Burmese pythons are an invasive species in the U.S., normally native to Southeast Asia, and prey on over 72 different species of animals in Florida, said Conservancy wildlife biologist Ian Bartoszek. They are one of the largest species of snake in the world.

The Conservancy uses male snakes that it tags with radio transmitters to lead them to female snakes during the breeding season, according to Bartoszek. Once the Conservancy captures the snakes in an effort to suppress the local python population, they are euthanized and tissue samples are collected to advance genetic studies.

“It often feels like a CSI wildlife crime scene in our lab during necropsies and we frequently see first-hand how they are getting so large,” Bartoszek said. “We see the remains of white-tailed deer inside of pythons often. This should sound an alarm.”

The species of snake were brought to Florida in the 1970s through the pet trade and have since become an “established apex predator across the Greater Everglades ecosystem,” according to the Conservancy’s website.

“Burmese pythons are thought to be responsible for a 90% decline in native mammal populations across their established range,” the Conservancy says.

The Conservancy has removed more than 1,300 pythons weighing over 35,000 pounds from an approximately 150 square mile area in southwestern Florida to date, Bartoszek said.

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