Pythons & Panthers 


Pythons are a somewhat recent player in Florida panther history, however panthers and native snakes are no strangers, being bitten by a venomous or non venomous snake is certainly a possibility.   



How did pythons come to be in parts of the panthers range?


When hurricane Andrew blew through south Florida it tore down a facility which was housing thousands of snakes, many of these were Burmese pythons and the inventory of snakes was not recovered. It was this natural disaster that was believed to be primarily responsible for the outbreak of pythons in the Everglades, but this was not the only source, as pet snakes have become extremely popular in the pet trade, due to poor pet owner education and lack of regulations regarding some of these snakes, they have escaped their captivity, and people have deliberately released them. 


So how big of a problem are pythons for panthers? Currently they are not a known danger, but rather a potential one. Should we be concerned – yes.    


Pythons absolutely could be a threat to panthers, kits in particular. Mother panthers don’t have the luxury of ordering take-out, so when she goes off to hunt, she leaves her babies tucked under a palmetto, they are vulnerable, alone, and not able to defend them selves. A kit wouldn't stand a chance against a large and powerful python, even an elderly, sick, or injured cat could become a victim to its coils. A python could conceivably wrap around and constrict a panther to death, but as far as being able to devour one, I don’t know.    


What is known is that pythons in the Everglades are dinning on some of the same meals as the panther: rodents, rabbits, alligator, even deer, a bobcat was also found in the belly of a python. So if these snakes kill & swallow some of these other animals, they may be able to do the same to a panther. As far as I know a python ingesting a panther has never  been documented. Mortality statistics on the Panthernet website are fairly comprehensive, at least for collared panthers, so far none have been listed as having ended their life that way.    


Panthers have enough pressures placed upon them in their daily struggle to survive; people have been responsible for adding to these many pressures, past and present. Every panther’s life is precious, and pythons could pose a problem, it would be very sad indeed to see them adversely affected by yet another threat. Let’s hope that the wild populations of pythons are brought under control, and that panthers do not fall prey to them, directly or indirectly.     


I would like to mention that pythons are not the only invasive species that could threaten panther recovery. Domestic animals, feral cats, and stray dogs, all pose a very real threat; they can cause conflicts with panthers & transfer parasites and diseases to our native cats.    


It is interesting to note that here in Florida we have a thriving population of Burmese pythons, whereas in their traditional slithering grounds of Southeast Asia, these snakes are considered a threatened species.




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