In 2009 and 2010, there was a flurry of interest regarding pythons, posted at the Trip Advisor Key Largo forum website under the title: "Snakes in the Keys." The post was started by hjeanson of Oconomowoc, WI and specifically inquired about pythons on Key Largo (tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g34344-i287-k29409…).
Some of the responses included ratabsolute statements such as the following:
1. "They seriously have not "invaded" here." by wnbamiamisol of Key Largo, Florida.
2. "It's media hype." by Bluewater, of Marathon, Florida.
3. "They seriously have not "invaded" here. I have yet to see one in the Keys. Saw a dead one on 41 on the way to Naples last weekend. Also saw a dead rattler on 41. Have I seen either alive in 14 years of living in Key largo? No." by wnbamiamisol of Key Largo, Florida
I am writing to counter those opinions with some facts. Key Largo's first "documented" python (the voucher specimen is at the Florida Museum of Natural History) was captured April 13, 2007. Since that date, a few to several pythons are captured or killed in the Florida Keys each year. Examiniation by scientists showed that some of these animals are escaped pets, but others appear to be the advancing edge of the Florida pennisula's already large and expanding population of pythons.
In 2012 there were several Burmese pythons found on Key Largo and Marathon (eddmaps.org/florida/distribution/viewmap.cfm…), ball pythons (3) found on Key Largo and on Stock Island, and boa constrictors (2) found on Big Pine Key and Key West (http://keysnews.com/node/42846).
Though giant constrictors (…usgs.gov/products/…) do not pose nearly as much threat to Floridians as lightning, drowning or bee-stings, children have been killed in their own homes by escaped pythons that were kept as pets. In 2012, a Burmese python was captured after it ingested a white-tailed deer weighing 72 pounds.
Currently (July 2013), there is no indication that pythons are "established" (breeding) in the Florida Keys. However, that is a real possibility and the odds of it happening are increasing. Whether they are released or escaped pets, or wild pythons arriving here from the mainland, any pythons or boa constrictors loose in the Florida Keys pose a serious threat, especially to our native mammals, including the Key deer (see: http://www.fort.usgs.gov/FLConstrictors/FAQPrey.asp). Five species of mammals endemic to the Keys are already teetering on the brink of extinction.
So, pythons ARE here in the Keys. Though they are not abundant, they do appear to be increasing in number and size, and any large constrictor can be dangerous. Even if pythons are not (yet) a serious threat to humans in the Florida Keys, they are a threat to our endangered wildlife and our natural ecosystems. Anyone who sees an python should immediately call the Python Hotline at -888-I'VE-GOT-1. If that does not preduce an immediate response, and you still have a live python in front of you, dial 911. Take photos if you can, and please remain on-site to point out the snake to the first responder to arrive. And, please post your sighting (with photos) online at www.EDDMapS.org