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Keywords:

  • Burmese pythons;
  • Everglades;
  • Florida;
  • human–wildlife interactions;
  • invasive species;
  • Python molurus bivittatus

ABSTRACT

Invasive Burmese pythons (Python molurus bivittatus) are now established across a large area of southern Florida, USA, including all of Everglades National Park (NP). The presence of these large-bodied snakes in the continental United States has attracted intense media attention, including regular reference to the possibility of these snakes preying on humans. Over the course of a decade (2003–2012), we solicited reports of apparently unprovoked strikes directed at humans in Everglades NP. We summarize the circumstances surrounding each of the 5 reported incidents, which occurred between 2006 and 2012. All strikes were directed toward biologists moving through flooded wetlands; 2 strikes resulted in minor injury and none resulted in constriction. We consider most of these strikes to be cases of “mistaken identity,” in which the python initiated a strike at a potential prey item but aborted its predatory behavior prior to constriction and ingestion. No strikes are known to have been directed at park visitors despite visitation rates averaging over one million per year during this period. We conclude that while risks to humans should not be completely discounted, the relative risk of a human being killed by a python in Everglades NP appears to be extremely low. Published 2014. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.