USGS Maps Potential Spread of Invading Pythons

March 5, 2008

Huge, invasive snakes may soon slither out of Florida. For several years, Burmese pythons that escaped into the wild have been found in an increasingly larger range in Florida. Many officials are concerned that the snakes, which can grow more than 20 feet long and weigh in excess of 250 pounds, may eventually spread throughout much of the southern tier of the country.

To evaluate this possibility, the US Geological Survey analyzed the US to determine what areas have a climate suitable for the snakes. In a report released Feb. 20, 2008, they found that the snakes might be able to survive in about one-third of the states. If the climate warms, as widely expected, the area they could invade would be even larger. The agency provides maps for each scenario, so you can see if the area you cover is included.

Along with the potential risks to people posed by the snakes, the pythons likely will disrupt the habitats they invade. For instance, USGS officials note that a number of endangered species have been found inside the stomachs of Florida pythons.

Having acknowledged the presence and invasive potential of pythons, officials from USGS and Everglades National Park are investigating similar threats that may be posed by nine species of boa constrictors and anacondas that are commonly kept as pets, and that could escape into the wild. Their report is targeted for release in early 2009.

For many more angles on invasive animals and plants, search the TipSheet archives for "invasive."