Burmese python hatchlings seen on Key Largo

Burmese python hatchlings have been spotted for the first time on Key Largo, a discovery that’s prompting officials to send postcards to homeowners there asking for help spotting the elusive snakes. The postcards show a picture of a python and list a phone number to call if someone spots one.

One 18-inch-long Burmese python was found on Aug. 2, 2016, in Key Largo, and a second similar-sized python was found on Aug. 3 in the same location. A third hatchling was found on Aug. 23 in north Key Largo. These confirmed observations are the first known hatchling-sized Burmese pythons found in Key Largo. These observations suggest that pythons have reproduced near this location, but there have been no sightings of python nests or eggs in the area.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Exotic Species Hotline has received 31 credible reports of Burmese pythons in the Keys over the past five years, with recent confirmed sightings limited to Key Largo.

“While we have documented Burmese pythons in the Keys for a while now, this is the first time we have documentation of hatchlings in the area. This is not surprising considering the proximity to the known breeding population in the Everglades,” said Kristen Sommers, section leader of the FWC’s Wildlife Impact Management Section.

The United States Geological Survey, FWC and other partners are working together with local residents to increase detection and monitoring efforts for Burmese pythons in the Keys.

“We’re sending the postcards in an effort to collect more information on where and how often pythons are being sighted,” said Bryan Falk, a USGS biologist. “This information will ultimately help all of the agencies involved focus our research and control efforts in areas where python densities are highest, and hopefully mitigate their further spread. We worry about pythons becoming established in the Keys because there are several at-risk populations of small mammals, like the Key Largo woodrat and the Key Largo cotton mouse, that would be easy prey for Burmese pythons.”

Residents and visitors can help by reporting sightings of Burmese pythons and other nonnative species to the FWC’s Exotic Species Reporting Hotline at 888-Ive-Got1 (888-483-4681), online at IveGot1.org or by downloading the free “IveGot1” smartphone app.

In addition to sustained efforts to manage Burmese python populations, USGS and the FWC continue to work to improve detection and removal capabilities for Burmese pythons and other invasive species, such as Argentine black and white tegus, in coordination with partner agencies and organizations. For more information about Burmese pythons in Florida, go to MyFWC.com/Python.