skip to main content

Listen

Read

Watch

Schedules

Programs

Events

Give

Account

Donation Heart Ribbon

NATURE: Invasion Of The Giant Pythons

Airs Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: A giant python swallows an alligator in Florida’s Everglades National Parks. NATURE investigates a growing crisis — invasive predatory constrictors transforming the Everglades protected wilderness into their personal killing field.

As part of an ever popular international pet trade market, and incidentally along paths of human travel, many exotic animals have been removed from their native lands and landed where they are not necessarily welcome arrivals.

Courtesy of Matthew Wright

Close-up of Burmese python head.

Herpetologist Shawn Heflick has a permit to hunt down Burmese pythons to help curb the predatory snake population in Florida’s Everglades National Park.
Enlarge this image

Above: Herpetologist Shawn Heflick has a permit to hunt down Burmese pythons to help curb the predatory snake population in Florida’s Everglades National Park.

Courtesy of ©Simon Wagen

Through heat sensing pits on their faces, pythons strike when they sense heat. Herpetologist Shawn Heflick employs a warm water balloon to capture the python strike.

Among these invasive species are a growing number of Burmese pythons, which have taken up residence in the wetlands of Florida, courtesy of overwhelmed pet owners and hurricane-hit animal warehouses.

Accidentally or intentionally released pythons and other exotic animals, such as parrots, reptiles, and lizards are inhabiting dry as well as wet habitats, and feeding on or competing with native species.

Giant pythons are well-adapted for success in Florida, where the habitat is similar to their Asian home.

Although they are non-venomous, pythons are among the largest snakes in the world, reaching up to twenty-six feet long.

Their size and power makes them one of the top predators in Florida’s Everglades National Park, taking on even the alligators, and posing a threat to many of the indigenous and endangered species.

NATURE "Invasion Of The Giant Pythons" follows teams of scientists and hunters as they use their vast knowledge of snakes and their prey to uncover the impact of the pythons on the park’s fragile ecosystems.

Herpetologist Shawn Heflick uses some innovative techniques to observe the mechanics of the snake’s bite, while scientists Stephen Secor and Skip Snow employ advanced technology to analyze the ways in which pythons swallow and digest animals that can be more than half their own body size.

This program originally aired in 2010.

View photos of snakes that were submitted by members of the NATURE Flickr group.

NATURE is on Facebook, and you can follow @PBSNature on Twitter.

Video

Interview with Shawn Heflick and Kimberly Wright

Above: Herpetologist Shawn Heflick and Kimberly Wright, of Wild Wonders, discuss how a thriving python population in Everglades National Park has made the refuge more a killing ground than a haven for the endangered mammals, trees, plants, birds, turtles and alligators there. Heflick and Navarro are joined by Pugsley, a 13 ft. Burmese python. "Invasion of the Giant Pythons" premiered on PBS Sunday, February 21, 2010. See the full episode at http://video.pbs.org/video/1411970145

Video

Nature: Invasion Of The Giant Pythons Preview

Above: NATURE "Invasion Of The Giant Pythons" follows teams of scientists and hunters as they use their vast knowledge of snakes and their prey to uncover the impact of the pythons on the park’s fragile ecosystems.

Video

Excerpt: Nature: Invasion Of The Giant Pythons: Alligator vs. Python

Above: Alligators were once the undisputed reptile kings of the Everglades. But who would win a battle now — alligator or python? It all depends on which one is bigger. "Invasion Of The Giant Pythons" premieres on PBS Sunday, February 21, 2010.

Balloon Strike

Herpetologist Shawn Heflick has a permit to hunt down Burmese pythons in the Everglades. He's carrying red water balloons because they make perfect targets for a striking snake. Check out the strike in slow motion!