A 13-foot Burmese python recently burst after it apparently tried to swallow
a live, six-foot alligator whole, authorities said.
The incident has heightened biologists' fears that the nonnative snakes
could threaten a host of other animal species in the Everglades.
"It means nothing in the Everglades is safe from pythons, a top-down
predator," said Frank Mazzotti, a University of Florida wildlife professor.
Over the years, many pythons have been abandoned in the Everglades by pet
The gory evidence of the latest gator-python encounter the fourth
documented in the past three years was discovered and photographed last
week by a helicopter pilot and wildlife researcher.
The snake was found with the gator's hindquarters protruding from its
midsection. Mazzotti said the alligator may have clawed at the python's
stomach as the snake tried to digest it.
In previous incidents, the alligator won or the battle was an apparent draw.
"There had been some hope that alligators can control Burmese pythons,"
Mazzotti said. "This indicates to me it's going to be an even draw.
Sometimes alligators are going to win and sometimes the python will win."
It is unknown how many pythons are competing with the thousands of
alligators in the Everglades, but at least 150 have been captured in the
past two years, said Joe Wasilewski, a wildlife biologist and crocodile
Pythons could threaten many smaller species that conservationists are trying
to protect, including other reptiles, otters, squirrels, woodstorks and
sparrows, Mazzotti said.
Wasilewski said a 10- or 20-foot python also could pose a risk to an unwary
human, especially a child. He added, however, "I don't think this is an
imminent threat. This is not a `Be afraid, be very afraid' situation.'"
In this photo provided by the Everglades National Park, the carcass of a
six-foot American alligator is shown protruding from the mid-section of a
13-foot Burmese python Monday, Sept. 26, 2005 in Everglades National Park,
Fla., after the snake apparently swallowed the alligator resulting in the
deaths of both animals. (AP Photo/Everglades National Park)
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