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Python proliferation in the Everglades

Wildlife biologist says non-native snakes could impact ecology in Florida
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What happens when a 13-foot python with an appetite runs into a 6-foot alligator?

Recently, a case of that matchup was discovered in the Florida Everglades. It ended in a tie when the python exploded, leaving both beasts dead. 

Wildlife biologist Joe Wasilewski appeared on 'Scarborough Country' Wednesday to discuss what is happening in the swamps of Florida, and what the proliferation of the non-native python may mean to Florida's ecology.

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Joe, remarkable things going on in the swamps of Florida.  Talk about it. 

JOE WASILEWSKI, WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST:  Well, there's pythons out in the swamps of Florida now.  And they're getting big.  And, as you've seen in the photos, this was about a 13-foot animal.  And they can get over 20 feet long. 

SCARBOROUGH:  How do they get in the swamps? 

WASILEWSKI:  Well, a lot of people buy these little pythons for pets.  And they're kind of cute, you know. ... And they grow.  And, in fact, in the first year, if you do everything right, they can get over six feet long.  And people get tired of them.  They get afraid of them.  And they illegally let them go out, actually, all over the United States.  But, here in the Everglades, it's sort of just what they need in terms of habitat.  And they thrive.

SCARBOROUGH:  And the pythons can grow up to 20 feet and I understand a mother can have 100? 

WASILEWSKI:  Normally, they have 30 to 50 eggs.  But I do know of instances where they've had 100 eggs.  So, that's a lot of baby pythons out there. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, what happens whether a python runs into a gator?  I understand these battles go on for up to 24 hours? 

WASILEWSKI:  Yes, they can.  And it kind of depends on, I guess, who is the bigger of the two.  I would imagine, when the snake is bigger and can overpower the alligator, then the snake will win.  But alligators have been known to win.  And there have been ties. 

SCARBOROUGH:  This really does have the possibility of changing the food chain down in South Florida and having some devastating environmental effects.  Talk about that. 

WASILEWSKI:  Oh, realistically, the alligator always has been the top predator in the Everglades.  And now you've got this other animal, this python, that can grow up to 400 pounds, potentially competing with the alligator.  So, you've got two really good topflight predators now battling for number one. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Are pythons a direct danger to Americans that would visit the Everglades National Park? 

WASILEWSKI:  No.  No.  They're very cryptic.  Chances are, you'll never even see one.  They like to hide.  A 13-foot python like you saw in that photo can hide in a 2-foot-by-2-foot space. 

And it could stay in one spot for weeks at a time.  You see, they are opportunistic.  And he could lie in wait by a game trail and wait for like an alligator to come by.  But people, they don't want anything to do with us. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Thank God for that.  ... How many have been caught?  How many have been caught over the past year or so, Joe? 

WASILEWSKI:  There's been well over 150 caught in the last couple of years.  And I'm sad to say there's going to be more to come.  We have even found hatchling pythons, which means the big boys met the big girls out there.  And they're breeding in the wild. 

SCARBOROUGH: Well, it's certainly dangerous, not only for animals down there, but also for the ecological balance.