Invasive Burmese pythons have made a home in Florida competing with and feeding on native wildlife. Experts agree that new tools and techniques are crucial to monitoring and controlling the spread of this elusive snake. NWRC is doing its part to provide these much needed tools.
In 2013, USDA was issued a patent for a live snake trap that utilizes two trip pans for the capture of larger, heavier snakes, such as the invasive Burmese python. The design was the brain-child of NWRC wildlife biologist John Humphrey.
“Though the trap is based on a standard live trap design, it is the first trap to require two trip pans to be depressed at the same time in order to close the trap door. The pans are spaced such that non-target animals are unlikely to trigger the trap,” notes Humphrey. “This trap was developed with the invasive Burmese python in mind. It capitalizes on their larger length and weight.”
Researchers are working with captive pythons at NWRC’s Florida field station to evaluate how best to use the trap with lures or as refugia.
In addition to developing a new trap, NWRC researchers are also investigating new ways to monitor the spread of pythons in Florida.
“Burmese pythons are semi-aquatic and can be very hard to detect given their elusive nature and cryptic coloration,” states NWRC geneticist Dr. Toni Piaggio. “We’ve developed a new detection method that uses environmental DNA, thereby eliminating the need for direct observations or handling of snakes.”
The use of environmental DNA (eDNA) is a fairly new technique. Because animals shed DNA into the environment from their skin, saliva or other cells, the presence of these genetic fragments can often be detected. In this case, NWRC researchers developed a method to detect python eDNA at low concentrations in water. Results showed python eDNA was detectable for up to 96 hours in water. This method presents a promising new tool for monitoring the presence-absence and current distribution of Burmese pythons in Florida.
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