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In the Battle Against Florida Pythons, Scientists are Strapping Radio Collars to Prey

The bad news: Florida is overrun by 15-foot snakes. The good news: the state has a small army of python hunters on the job—and they’re using some techy new solutions to tackle their quarry. 

The python problem started decades ago with a handful of irresponsible pet owners. People started releasing their Burmese pythons into Florida’s parks and forests when they got too big to comfortably contain at home. Fast forward to 2023, and those pythons have grown and multiplied. Now they’re so big they eat raccoons, opossums, and even deer. 

In the past, the Florida government has tried all manner of things to get rid of the snakes. Land managers have paid professional python hunters and invented python-hunting competitions. They’ve even fitted male pythons with radio tags to help track down females. Now, their latest effort involves just as much subterfuge — just without having to release more snakes into the environment in the process. 

Last year, a group of researchers fitted a number of opossums with radio collars as part of a mammal-tracking project. In November, they tracked one of the collars — and found it in the stomach of a Burmese python. The python in question weighed more than 60 pounds, reports The Guardian. Better yet, it was full of eggs. By removing the snake, the scientists were able to stop a new generation in its tracks. 

Now, scientists are putting collars on the snakes’ prey on purpose, hoping that the radios will lead them to pythons which can then be euthanized. They look for collars that suddenly come to a dead standstill, then, after a while, start moving again. That’s how you know your collar is in the belly of a snake.  

In some instances, the team has been able to successfully track down and euthanize snakes, reports NBC Miami. In other instances, the scientists find the collar — but in a steaming pile, along with what’s left of the prey.

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