Ecology and Control of Invasive Reptiles in Florida

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This project involves ongoing development of tools for the detection and capture of invasive reptiles in Florida, with an emphasis on Burmese pythons (Python bivittatus) and Black and white tegu lizards (Salvator merianae). The goals are to reduce the risk of reptile invasions in high-value resources such as Everglades National Park and the Florida Keys, to access early detection methods of new incipient populations, to maintain rapid response capacity, and understand the population biology and habitat use of invasive reptiles to inform management options.

USGS Biological Science Technician Michelle Collier holds an invasive Argentine Tegu lizard.

Scientist Michelle Collier holding a black and white Tegu. USGS photo.



The Florida Everglades encompass a vast subtropical ecosystem including Everglades National Park, which is the only place in the United States designated as a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, and a Wetland of International Significance. Billions of dollars have been committed to the long-term restoration of this ecosystem, but burgeoning populations of introduced and invasive reptiles threaten prospects for restoration.




A Burmese python slithering in the grass in the Everglades.

A Burmese python slithering in the grass in the Everglades. Photo by: Emma Hanslowe, USGS. Public domain.



The Burmese python is the most widely known of these invaders, and this giant snake appears to have contributed to drastic declines among several species of midsized mammals in the Everglades. However, other large predatory species including the Argentine tegu and Northern African Python are also established in southern Florida, and the potential impacts of these species are not widely understood.

FORT scientists are conducting research on a range of detection and control tools for invasive reptiles in Florida, including environmental DNA sampling methods, trap development and field testing, and validation of visual searching efficacy. Scientists are also conducting basic ecological research to better understand impacts of these invasive predators and to identify ecological or behavioral vulnerabilities that can be exploited by control tools.