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Betrayal: radio-tagged Burmese pythons reveal locations of conspecifics in Everglades National Park

July 12, 2016

The “Judas” technique is based on the idea that a radio-tagged individual can be used to “betray” conspecifics during the course of its routine social behavior. The Burmese python (Python bivittatus) is an invasive constrictor in southern Florida, and few methods are available for its control. Pythons are normally solitary, but from December–April in southern Florida, they form breeding aggregations containing up to 8 individuals, providing an opportunity to apply the technique. We radio-tracked 25 individual adult pythons of both sexes during the breeding season from 2007–2012. Our goals were to (1) characterize python movements and determine habitat selection for betrayal events, (2) quantify betrayal rates of Judas pythons, and (3) compare the efficacy of this tool with current tools for capturing pythons, both in terms of cost per python removed (CPP) and catch per unit effort (CPUE). In a total of 33 python-seasons, we had 8 betrayal events (24 %) in which a Judas python led us to new pythons. Betrayal events occurred more frequently in lowland forest (including tree islands) than would be expected by chance alone. These 8 events resulted in the capture of 14 new individuals (1–4 new pythons per event). Our effort comparison shows that while the Judas technique is more costly than road cruising surveys per python removed, the Judas technique yields more large, reproductive females and is effective at a time of year that road cruising is not, making it a potential complement to the status quo removal effort.

Publication Year 2016
Title Betrayal: radio-tagged Burmese pythons reveal locations of conspecifics in Everglades National Park
DOI 10.1007/s10530-016-1211-5
Authors Brian J. Smith, Michael S. Cherkiss, Kristen M. Hart, Michael R. Rochford, Thomas H. Selby, Ray W Snow, Frank J. Mazzotti
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Biological Invasions
Index ID 70174451
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wetland and Aquatic Research Center