Environmental DNA (eDNA) Sampling Improves Occurrence and Detection Estimates of Invasive Burmese Pythons and Other Constrictor Snakes in Florida
Low detection of invasive constrictors has hampered the estimation of occupancy and detection estimates needed for population management in southern Florida. We developed species-specific eDNA assays for the 5 constrictor snakes in Florida. We validated the python and boa constrictor assays using laboratory trials and tested all species in 21 field locations distributed in eight southern Florida regions. Burmese python eDNA was detected in 37 of 63 field sampling events; however, the other species were not detected. Although eDNA was heterogeneously distributed in the environment, occupancy models were able to provide the first estimates of detection probabilities, which were greater than 91%. The development of informative detection tools and eDNA occupancy models can improve conservation efforts in southern Florida and support more extensive studies of invasive constrictors. This research was in collaboration with the University of Florida.