Supersize me: Remains of three white-tailed deer (<i>Odocoileus virginianus</i>) in an invasive Burmese python (<i>Python molurus bivittatus</i>) in Florida

Product Type: 

Journal Article

Year: 

2016

Author(s): 

Scott M. Boback, Ray W. Snow, Teresa Hsu, Suzanne C. Peurach, Carla J. Dove, and Robert N. Reed

Suggested Citation: 

Scott M. Boback, Ray W. Snow, Teresa Hsu, Suzanne C. Peurach, Carla J. Dove, and Robert N. Reed, 2016, Supersize me: Remains of three white-tailed deer (<i>Odocoileus virginianus</i>) in an invasive Burmese python (<i>Python molurus bivittatus</i>) in Florida: BioInvasions Records, v. 5, iss. 4. DOI: 10.3391/bir.2016.5.4.02

Snakes have become successful invaders in a wide variety of ecosystems worldwide. In southern Florida, USA, the Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus) has become established across thousands of square kilometers including all of Everglades National Park (ENP). Both experimental and correlative data have supported a relationship between Burmese python predation and declines or extirpations of mid- to large-sized mammals in ENP. In June 2013 a large python (4.32 m snout-vent length, 48.3 kg) was captured and removed from the park. Subsequent necropsy revealed a massive amount of fecal matter (79 cm in length, 6.5 kg) within the snake’s large intestine. A comparative examination of bone, teeth, and hooves extracted from the fecal contents revealed that this snake consumed three white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). This is the first report of an invasive Burmese python containing the remains of multiple white-tailed deer in its gut. Because the largest snakes native to southern Florida are not capable of consuming even mid-sized mammals, pythons likely represent a novel predatory threat to white-tailed deer in these habitats. This work highlights the potential impact of this large-bodied invasive snake and supports the need for more work on invasive predator-native prey relationships.

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