This Snake Is Eating the Everglades

Burmese pythons released into the wild by well-meaning pet owners have created a reptilian nightmare in the Everglades.

For more than a decade, Burmese pythons have been multiplying unchecked in the wilds of Florida, and thwarting repeated attempts by state environmental officials to get the invasive population under control.

It’s not easy. The snakes – some as long as 16 feet – were originally imported from Asia, and face few natural predators in the Everglades. They are non-venomous, strangle their prey, then eat it whole. They prey on anything and everything from rabbits to foxes to deer – even alligators devastating local wildlife populations and spooking visitors.

After years of debate, and over protests of the reptile industry, which feared any restrictions on their trade, the federal government in 2012 finally banned the import of Burmese pythons – and ultimately seven other giant snakes.

Pythons are not the only invasive species on scientists’ radar. Non-native lizards, fish, frogs, hogs and zebra mussels – to name just a few – are threatening U.S. lands and waterways.

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Previous versions
At Retro Report, we update our journalism as news unfolds. Here are the previous published versions of this story.
For teachers
  • Producer: Karen M. Sughrue
  • Editor: Anne Alvergue
  • Reporter: Sarah Weiser

For Educators


This 10-minute video explores how Burmese pythons have been multiplying unchecked in the wilds of Florida – thwarting repeated attempts by state environmental officials to get the invasive population under control. The snake is invasive and is not native to the United States. The rapid increase in the python population is having a significant impact on native species throughout Florida, especially in the Everglades. Many government agencies and organizations are working together to try to manage the python population, but it is a very difficult and complex problem.

Lesson Plan 1: Tracking the Python Threat in the Everglades

Students will learn how Burmese pythons have been multiplying unchecked in the wilds of Florida and what is being done to stop them from devastating the native wildlife populations.


Students will:

  • Use geospatial technologies to examine patterns in the spatial data of observed pythons and make decisions based on this data.
  • Evaluate the impact of human decisions on native and invasive species.
  • Analyze spatial data about invasive pythons to find solutions.
  • Analyze how public policy can affect the environment.
Essential questions
  • In what ways do invasive species affect the environment?
  • How do decisions by humans affect invasive species?
  • How can maps and spatial thinking help us learn more about the spread of invasive species and potential solutions?
  • Common Core State Standards
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.7:Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.9-10.2:Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; trace the text’s explanation or depiction of a complex process, phenomenon, or concept; provide an accurate summary of the text.
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.2:Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; summarize complex concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.7:Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.9:Synthesize information from a range of sources (e.g., texts, experiments, simulations) into a coherent understanding of a process, phenomenon, or concept, resolving conflicting information when possible.
  • National Council for the Social Studies C3 Framework
    • D2.Civ.5.9-12.Evaluate citizens’ and institutions’ effectiveness in addressing social and political problems at the local, state, tribal, national, and/or international level.
    • D2.Civ.12.9-12.Analyze how people use and challenge local, state, national, and international laws to address a variety of public issues.
    • D2.Civ.13.9-12.Evaluate public policies in terms of intended and unintended outcomes, and related consequences.
    • D2.Geo.1.9-12.Use geospatial and related technologies to create maps to display and explain the spatial patterns of cultural and environmental characteristics.
    • D2.Geo.3.9-12.Use geographic data to analyze variations in the spatial patterns of cultural and environmental characteristics at multiple scales.
    • D2.Geo.4.9-12.Analyze relationships and interactions within and between human and physical systems to explain reciprocal influences that occur among them.
  • Next Generation Science Standards
    • HS-ETS1-1:Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.
    • HS-LS2-7 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics:Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.
    • MS-ETS1-2:Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
    • MS-ETS1-4:Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.
    • MS-LS2-4 Ecosystems:Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics: Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
    • 3-5-ETS1-2:Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • AP Environmental Science
    • Unit 9: Global Change