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Project Work Plan

Department of Interior USGS GE PES

Fiscal Year 2008 Study Work Plan

Study Title: Trap Development for Invasive Burmese Pythons
Study Start Date: 2008 Study End Date: 2009
Web Sites: none developed
Location (Subregions, Counties, Park or Refuge): Total System
Funding Source: GE PES
Other Complementary Funding Source(s): Risk Assessment of Giant Constrictors as Invasive Species in the United States (NPS/FWS)
Funding History: Continuing project (2
nd year)
Principal Investigator(s): Gordon H. Rodda, Robert N. Reed, USGS-FORT
Project Personnel: Lea Bonewell, USGS-FORT

Overview & Objective(s):

The Burmese Python (Python molurus) is native to south and southeast Asia, and is very popular in the international live animal trade. A burgeoning invasive population of these snakes, likely originating from released pets, is now present and expanding in the greater Everglades ecosystem. This population is continuing its northward expansion at a rapid pace, and has already moved well beyond the boundaries of NPS lands. The recent discovery of a Burmese Python on Key Largo containing two ESA-listed Key Largo woodrats implies that the python is able to cross saltwater, and may threaten to colonize the rest of the Florida Keys. While the existence of high-density populations of a large-bodied invasive predator is of obvious conservation concern, little progress has been made towards development of appropriate control tools for Burmese Pythons. Multiple state and federal agencies have expressed the urgent need for control tool development, with several requests for assistance from Everglades National Park and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For over two decades, the USGS Brown Treesnake Project has focused on development and operational assessment of control tools for invasive snakes, and is thus a logical choice for development of control tools for invasive Burmese Pythons. This project will focus on designing and assessing the efficacy of several trap types for capturing Burmese Pythons, with the goal of applying results to control of pythons in Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Monument, Key Largo, and elsewhere.

Specific Relevance to Major Unanswered Questions and Information Needs Identified:

  • This study is responding to a urgent request from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Endangered Species Division (contact person: Cindy Schulz, cindy_schulz@fws.gov, phone 772-562-3909, ext. 305) and the National Park Service (Everglades National Park, contact person Skip Snow, skip_snow@nps.gov, phone 305-242-7827) to develop traps and other control tools for estimating python population size and initiating python control efforts in south Florida. These invasive snakes may have major detrimental effects on many state- and federally-listed vertebrate species that may be suitable as prey for pythons. For example, Key Largo is home to two endemic ESA-listed small mammals (Key Largo woodrat and Key Largo cotton mouse) that are potentially vulnerable to invasion by pythons, and pythons containing two Key Largo woodrats have been found on Key Largo in the last year. By initiating control efforts on Key Largo as well as conducting trap efficacy trials and control efforts in mainland habitats with higher densities of pythons, this study will result in a more robust sample size of captured snakes, facilitating more rigorous data analysis and prescriptions for python control.
  • This study supports the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan goal of restoring Everglades ecosystems by control and removal of invasive species.
  • This study addresses several science objectives in the USGS Science Plan in Support of Everglades Restoration. Primarily, this work is concentrated under Goal 2B "Restore, Preserve, and Protect Natural Habitats and Species - Ecological Indicators." Specifically, results of trapping efforts, combined with existing data from NPS, USGS, and U. Florida, will help establish baseline estimates of population size and demographic profiles of Burmese Pythons in areas selected for intensive trapping. These estimates can be used for future monitoring programs (2B-SG3), and will guide development of such programs for evaluating restoration success (2B-SG4).

Status and Recent Products: This project is in its second year of funding.

Planned Products: We plan to prepare manuscripts on trap efficacy and ecological insights gained by trapping efforts, for submission to peer-reviewed journals. We will present results of our python-related research at national and international meetings during FY08 and FY09.


Title of Task 1: Trap Development for Invasive Burmese Pythons (only 1 task identified in project)
Task Funding GE PES
Task Leaders: Gordon H. Rodda, Robert N. Reed
Phone: 970-226-9464
FAX: 970-226-9230
Task Status (proposed or active): Active
Task priority: High
Time Frame for Task 1: Work will commence during the 3rd quarter of FY08 and continue in FY09.
Task Personnel: Lea Bonewell, USGS

Task Summary and Objectives: As for Overview and Objectives, above.

Work to be undertaken during the proposal year and a description of the methods and procedures:

During FY08-09, we will concentrate our work on:

  • Developing specifications and schematics for traps
  • Identification of preferred contractors for trap fabrication, and contracting for production of prototype traps
  • Locating suitable mainland locations for trap deployment in areas with existing Burmese Python populations
  • Fabricating and deploying traps, including replicated arrays of traps with various configurations for increasing trap success for Burmese Pythons but reducing bycatch of non-target species
  • Fieldwork to detect and control an incipient population of pythons on Key Largo using multiple detection methods (trapping, visual surveys, etc.)
  • Collecting demographic, diet, and ecological data on all Burmese Pythons captured in traps and during other field activities (all pythons will be humanely euthanized after capture)

Specific Task Product(s): [List and include expected delivery date(s).]

This study will develop and test traps for invasive Burmese Pythons in the greater Everglades ecosystem and elsewhere. The results will be reported in technical reports, fact sheets, scientific and public presentations and/or peer reviewed publications. The data from this study will be used to plan control efforts for Burmese pythons, and will provide baseline information on population size and structure in the areas where traps are tested. Data from this study will also be useful for the development and validation of other detection methods and traps for Burmese Pythons as well as other species of invasive giant constrictors (e.g., Green Anaconda, Yellow Anaconda, Boa Constrictor, etc).

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Last updated: 04 September, 2013 @ 02:09 PM(KP)