Forget sharks. There’s something even more terrifying swimming around in the warm water of South Florida: pythons.
In November, a kayaker reportedly saw a 9-foot Burmese python wrapped around part of a research platform more than half a mile offshore in Biscayne National Park, according to the Miami Herald.
It was the first sighting of a python inside the park, although Florida officials have become increasingly concerned about the presence of the snakes in the state.
In fact, state wildlife biologists confirmed in September that the dangerous snakes have been breeding in the Keys, WTVJ reported.
University of Florida wildlife biologist Frank Mazzotti called it a “war against pythons” and made a hair-raising observation about the sighting.
“When you actually see something like this, how often does it occur that you don’t see it?” he wondered.
Mazzotti also noted that the sighting confirmed that pythons are as comfortable in open water as they are in freshwater marshes and mangroves, according to the Associated Press.
District python wrangler Bobby Hill captured the python the following day, according to the park biologist, Vanessa McDonough. The snake is now reportedly being used to educate the public about pythons.
McDonough suspected the python may have been spooked by fishermen near the Mowry Canal, so it slithered into the water and swam to the bay.
“I know the pythons are in that area because that’s Bobby Hill’s terrain and he’s grabbed quite a few,” she said.
Although python sightings within the park — particularly in park waters — are rare, swimming snakes are not completely unheard of in the area.
A 2015 study by the U.S. Geological Society tracked pythons for five years and found that they lived in both freshwater marshes and mangrove swamps around Cape Sable. Scientists suspected at least some of the adult snakes that started breeding in Key Largo swam there.
The sighting means that more snakes could be targeting the islands dotting Florida’s coastline — islands that are home to birds, small mammals, and occasionally, turtle nests.
Any island big enough to support mammals could be a target for pythons.
If you’re planning a trip to South Florida anytime soon, be careful in the water and always be mindful of your surroundings.
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