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Pythons have been big news over the past few years … for all the wrong reasons.

The non-native species, thought to have proliferated in the Everglades and beyond by being ditched after owners grew tired of having them as pets; or escaping from captivity during hurricanes, are now hatching.

It’s the season for Burmese python eggs, in other words. In clutches of 20-60 eggs at a time.

And, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida wants to straighten out some misconceptions about simply killing snakes because they might be Burmese pythons.

The Conservancy explains: At birth many of these hatchlings are up to two feet long, already the size of many full-grown native snakes. Conservancy biologist Ian Bartoszek says it is unlikely most of us will ever encounter a python, but many people are afraid. Unfortunately native snakes are on the receiving end of these fears.

“Pythons get a lot of attention because of their size,” said Bartoszek. “Unfortunately many native snakes are misidentified as small pythons.”

“The most important thing we want people to know is please, never harm any snake. It is most likely you’ll hurt a native animal instead,” said Bartoszek. “Pythons are not venomous snakes and they do not want to be near humans.”

The Conservancy emphasizes that the vast majority of snakes are native, and are necessary for Southwest Florida’s ecological balance. Pythons, because they have few if any natural predators, are causing problems for native wildlife and the environment, not people.

However, hatchlings may begin to show up on rural roads, often moving at night. The pythons are tan in color, with dark blotches on the back and sides that are irregularly shaped and fit together like puzzle pieces. They have a dark brown arrowhead shape on top of their head and a dark wedge behind the eye.

Conservancy biologists and partner groups are working to study this invasive species to help identify population management strategies.

The Conservancy is a not-for-profit grassroots organization with a 50 year history focused on the critical environmental issues impacting the water, land and wildlife in Collier, Lee, Glades, Hendry, and Charlotte counties.

To help:

If you see what appears to be a python, take photos and note your location. Be as specific as possible. Report it on the www.ivegot1.org site. If you’re standing near a large-invasive snake call 1-888-IVE-GOT1 – a trained professional will help identify the type of snake.

Location information helps researchers document areas the snakes may be spreading in order to help manage population growth.

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