Florida's Invasive Burmese Pythons “Likely Impossible” To Defeat, Scientists Worry

Burmese pythons have spread exponentially in the past 20 years, now appearing as far north as West Palm Beach and Fort Myers.

<p>ToscaWhi/Getty Images</p>

ToscaWhi/Getty Images

Florida residents will need to get used to their most-troublesome neighbors.

Despite some progress, complete eradication of Burmese pythons in southern Florida was deemed “likely impossible" by authors of a paper produced by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) earlier this year.

The paper, published in January, analyzed 250 studies from over three decades about the invasive species' presence in Florida and its rapid spread across the state. Experts even went so far as to categorize efforts to control the pythons as “one of the most intractable invasive-species management issues across the globe.”


Burmese python sightings in Florida were first recorded around Everglades National Park (ENP) in 1979. Subsequent sightings were written off as "individual escapes or releases" until the late 1990s and early 2000s, "when confirmation of a reproducing [python] population in ENP prompted their recognition as an established invasive species."

In the four decades since the first invader was recorded in Florida, the python population has grown and spread, “consuming native wildlife and altering the food web in the Everglades," the paper notes.

According to maps shared by the Sun-Sentinel, Burmese pythons have spread exponentially in the past 20 years, now appearing as far north as West Palm Beach and Fort Myers.

As for why the Burmese python has proven so difficult to eradicate, scientists say that a “unique combination of inaccessible habitat and the cryptic and resilient nature of pythons” has made them “extremely challenging” to detect in the subtropical environment of southern Florida—a habitat that closely resembles their native home in southeast Asia. In southern Florida, adult Burmese pythons reach sizes that are too large for most predators to kill them. Humans are their only true threat.

Burmese pythons are one of the largest snake species in the world, with adults in Florida growing to an average length between six and nine feet. In 2022, A team of wildlife biologists with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida captured an eight-foot-long, 215-pound female Burmese python loaded with 122 developing eggs.

Experts estimate that there are at least tens of thousands pythons currently thriving in Florida’s remote habitats. According to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, more than 18,000 have been removed since 2000, including 2,500 in 2022.

But there is one piece of good news in the USGS paper: there have been no reports of humans being killed by wild Burmese pythons in Florida.

Nonnative species can be reported to FWC using the IveGot1 app, submitting a form at or calling the Exotic Species Hotline at 888-483-4681.

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