Invasive Reptiles

Science Center Objects

Invasive species have negatively impacted many ecosystems. Invasive reptiles are an increasing problem across the United States. Tracking the establishment and spread of existing and new invasive species is critical to effectively manage invasive species. USGS scientists are developing new tools, particularly molecular techniques, to assist in the early detection of, and rapid response to, invasive reptiles such as Burmese pythons and Argentine black and white tegus in Florida, boa constrictors in the Virgin Islands, and brown treesnakes on Guam.

BLACK AND WHITE TEGU

Invasive black and white tegu lizards (Salvator merianae).

Invasive black and white tegu (Public domain.)

Relatively recent invaders into South Florida, Argentine black and white tegus are large, highly reproductive, long living terrestrial lizards native to South America. Two established populations of tegu are in Florida, each likely coming from an escaped or released domesticated pet. Tegus eat a variety of plants and animals, but most concerning is their preference for reptile and bird eggs. USGS research on tegus includes developing and testing methods for detection and control, focusing on determining thermal tolerances and predicting tegus potential range in the U.S.

 

Wetland and Aquatic Research Center (WARC)

More information about WARC projects is available from the links below.

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BROWN TREESNAKE

A brown treesnake in a tree in Guam. Photo by Bob Reed, USGS.

Brown treesnake in a tree in Guam. (Credit: Bob Reed, USGS. Public domain.)

Scientists with the USGS Brown Treesnake project conduct research on this snake species, including control tool development and validation, ecology and ecological impacts, and early detection methods. The program has been expanded to include other invasive reptiles, such as the Burmese Python, Boa Constrictor, and Northern African Python in Florida and invasive watersnakes in California. 

 

Fort Collins Science Center Science (FORT)

More information about FORT projects is available from the links below.

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BURMESE PYTHON

A Burmese python coiled in the grass in the Everglades.

A Burmese python coiled in the grass in the Everglades. (Credit: Bryan Falk, USGS. Public domain.)

USGS scientists continue to conduct research on invasive Burmese pythons in Everglades National Park and other DOI lands in South Florida to aid in the management of these large, voracious constrictor snakes. Our research on Burmese pythons has focused on developing and testing methods for detection and control, predicting potential range of the species in the U.S., understanding thermal tolerances and conducting a risk assessment of pythons to humans.

 

Fort Collins Science Center Science (FORT)

More information about FORT projects is available from the links below.

 

Wetland and Aquatic Research Center (WARC)

More information about WARC projects is available from the links below.

Image: A Record-Breaking Invasive Burmese Python

This female Burmese python broke the records for her length - 17 feet, 7 inches - and the number of eggs she contained: 87. She was first captured in Everglades National Park by USGS researchers in the spring of 2012, when they followed a "Judas snake" - a male python with a transmitter - and found her nearby in the bushes. USGS scientists then outfitted her with two radio transmitters, a GPS device, and a motion-sensing device before releasing her back into the wild. The second radio transmitter was a failsafe, ensuring she wouldn't "go wild" again. The snake remained in the wild for 38 days and then was removed and euthanized. The information from this snake's every move - each pitch, roll, and yawl - was recorded by the motion detector, allowing biologists to piece together her behaviors, including her kills. Biologists plan to use detailed information about the snake’s biology and activity patterns to develop control methods for this invasive species. Pythons are effective at blending in the tall marsh grasses that give the Everglades its nickname, "The River of Grass," making it hard to spot the pythons even when they are being radiotracked.

(Credit: Catherine Puckett, USGS . Public domain.)

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