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A field test of attractant traps for invasive Burmese pythons (Python molurus bivittatus) in southern Florida

Authors: Robert N. ReedA*, Kristen M. HartB, Gordon H. RoddaA, Frank J. MazzottiC, Ray W. SnowD, Michael CherkissC, Ronald RozarA, Scott GoetzA

A U.S. Geological Survey, Fort Collins Science Center, 2150 Centre Ave., Bldg C, Fort Collins CO 80526, USA
B U.S. Geological Survey, Southeast Ecological Science Center, Davie Field Office, 3205 College Ave., Davie, FL 33314, USA
C University of Florida, Ft. Lauderdale Research and Education Center, 3205 College Ave., Davie, FL 33314, USA
D National Park Service, Everglades National Park, 40001 State Road 9336, Homestead, FL, 33034, USA
*Corresponding author: phone 970-226-9464, fax 970-226-9230, email reedr@usgs.gov

This article was published in Wildlife Research, 2011, 38, 114-121. Author's pre-publication version posted with permission from CSIRO Publishing.


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Context. Invasive Burmese pythons (Python molurus bivittatus) are established over thousands of square kilometers of southern Florida, USA, and consume a wide range of native vertebrates. Few control tools are available to control the python population, and none of the available tools have been validated in the field to assess capture success as a proportion of pythons available to be captured.

Aims. Our primary aim was to conduct a trap trial for capturing invasive pythons in an area east of Everglades National Park where many pythons had been captured in previous years, in order to assess the efficacy of traps for population control. We also aimed to compare results of visual surveys with trap capture rates, to determine capture rates of non-target species, and to assess capture rates as a proportion of resident pythons in the study area.

Methods. We conducted a medium-scale (6,053 trap-nights) experiment using two types of attractant traps baited with live rats in the Frog Pond area east of Everglades National Park. We also conducted standardised and opportunistic visual surveys in the trapping area. Following the trap trial, the area was disc-harrowed to expose pythons and allow calculation of an index of the number of resident pythons.

Key results. We captured three pythons and 69 individuals of various rodent, amphibian, and reptile species in traps. Eleven pythons were discovered during disc-harrowing operations, as were large numbers of rodents.

Conclusions. The trap trial captured a relatively small proportion of pythons that appeared to be present in the study area, although previous research suggests that trap capture rates will improve with additional testing of alternative trap designs. Potential negative impacts to non-target species were minimal. Low python capture rates may have been associated with extremely high local prey abundances during the trap experiment.

Implications. Results of this trial illustrate many of the challenges in implementing and interpreting results from tests of control tools for large cryptic predators such as Burmese pythons.

Introduction >

Related information:

SOFIA Project: Development of control tools for invasive pythons in Greater Everglades ecosystems

SOFIA Project: An integrated plan for invasive reptile research and management in Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, and Biscayne National Park

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