Original Burmese pythons came from Southeast Asian nations. However, in Florida, Burmese pythons are considered invasive species due to their impact on native wildlife. Nowadays, you can find Burmese python in Florida as well. These snakes are magnificent creatures with unique black and brown markings on their bodies. Thanks to their docile nature, Burmese pythons make also make an exceptional pet to the right owner.
However, these snakes are not suitable for beginners. Even if you choose to get a Burmese Python as a pet, you should go to a breeder and not import a wild snake.
Burmese snakes have massive bodies, and they can be potentially dangerous if not handled properly. Many owners across the world have died from mishandling these snakes.
So before you decide on adopting a Burmese snake, it is better to understand the breed intimately and consider all the other aspects. The following guide will help you to get all the required information about the Burmese python.
- Scientific name: Python bivittatus
- Common name: Burmese python
- Length: Adult snakes tend to grow about 15 to 20 feet long.
- Weight: The average weight of an adult Burmese snake is about 200 pounds.
- Life expectancy: Burmese Python lives about 25 years.
As we have mentioned earlier, Burmese Pythons originally came from South and Southeast Asian nations including, Southern Nepal, Eastern India, South-Eastern Bangladesh, Western Bhutan, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia. These snakes are also available in Fujian, Guangdong, Jiangxi, Hainan, Yunnan, provinces of China. You can also spot the snakes in Indonesia, Java, Bali, Southern Sulawesi, Hong Kong, and Sumbawa.
The Burmese pythons love to live in marshy lands. Even though the snakes have heavy bodies, they can be found up in the trees. Burmese pythons are exceptional swimmers and always need a source of water to live a long life.
Burmese pythons are one of the largest snake species in the world. They can grow up to 20 feet in length. These snakes have brown and black colour marks all over their skin. The blotches together look like puzzle pieces.
The pyramid-shaped head of this snake has an arrowhead-shaped that expands to its nose. The markings are very similar to the markings on a giraffe’s body. These snakes are semi-aquatic and are mostly found near water bodies. There are also excellent climbers and can be spotted in the trees basking.
Burmese pythons do not have as many colour variations. Here are some of the most common Burmese Python varieties that you can find around.
The Albino Burmese pythons are white, yellow and orange.
Patternless or green
In Juvenile conditions, patternless or green Burmese pythons may retain some of the remaining patterns. Still, they generally get turned into a uniform dark brown or faded brown or dark Khaki green with age.
These pythons have a broken maze-like pattern on their bodies.
Granite Burmese pythons come with a light coloured head. Their bodies are decorated with intricate patterns that resemble granite stone.
Even though it is not a colour variation of Burmese Python, the dwarf variety helps the snake enthusiasm to get a Burmese Python pet that will grow to a manageable size of 5 to 7 feet.
Behaviour and temperament of a Burmese python
Burmese pythons are one of the largest snakes across the world. Compared to the other pythons, the snakes are generally docile. Even their hatchlings can be a little skittish, but you can hand tame them easily.
These snakes are not like many other breeds. They are considered slow compared to the other more giant snakes. These snakes are also less demanding when they are in captivity. Burmese python shows aggressiveness during feeding time. So, you need to establish the difference between you and the prey if you are keeping a Burmese pet python at your home.
These snakes are nocturnal. Juvenile snakes feel equally at home in trees and on the ground. As they grow and gain weight, they tend to restrict their movements to the ground.
These snakes are excellent swimmers. They can stay submerged in water for about 30 minutes. Burmese Pythons like to remain hidden most of the time underbrush.
In the Northern section of its distribution, the Burmese python can choose various hiding places for hibernation. These snakes can hide in holes in a riverbank, a hollow tree, or under rocks in the colder season.
The Hibernation of Burmese pythons is known as brumation, which is different from the hibernation that other snakes experience. The brumation has similar benefits to hibernation. That means it helps these massive snakes to endure the onslaught of winter without much movement. Brumation also helps prepare both female and male reproductive organs of the snakes for the forthcoming breeding season. Even though the Florida population of Burmese pythons are invasive species, they also show brumation.
These snakes are solitary and generally found in pairs only during the mating season. The breeding season for these pythons is in Early Spring. The female lays about 12 to 36 eggs during March and April. The female snake stays with its clutch of eggs till they hatch, much like the ball pythons do.
During this time, female snakes keep their body coiled around their eggs and twitch their muscles in a specific way to increase the ambient temperature. This process helps to increase the temperature by a couple of degrees around the eggs. Once the hatchlings mature inside the egg, they use their egg tooth to cut through the shell.
Most of the time, the hatchlings stay inside their eggshells until they are ready to complete their first shedding. Once the shedding is over, the hatchlings then leave their shell to hunt for the first time. Once that happens, no other maternal care is required.
Like most other snakes, Burmese pythons are carnivores. Their diet generally consists of small mammals, like mice, rats and birds. However, some snakes also eat reptiles and amphibians from time to time.
These snakes are sit-and-wait predators. That means they stay hidden out of the sight of their prey and wait for them to approach. Once they do that, the snakes strike rapidly and grab it with their sharp teeth. Burmese python then wraps its body around the animal and constructs it to death. Like most snakes, these pythons also swallow their prey as a whole.
In captivity, Burmese pythons depend on commercially available food. As an invasive species in Florida, these pythons generally target a variety of mammals including, raccoons, foxes, rabbits, as their prey.
Thanks to its high predation level, this invention can implicate the disappearance and decline of many mammal species in Florida. In the invasive range, these snakes have also been spotted to eat birds and other reptiles. The immense size of the snakes makes them target more giant animals like goats and pigs. Burmese pythons are famous for attacking deer and alligators in Florida as well.
The prompt digestive response of these pythons has helped them to become the model species of digestive physiology. Their unique digestive style is supported by a long fasting period between meals. A full-grown Burmese python generally feeds once every month or two. However, they can last for as long as 18 months.
During this time, these snakes down-regulate their digestive tissues to conserve energy. It is seen that fasting pythons reduce their stomach acidity and volume significantly. It is also able to reduce its intestinal mass and even the average heart volume. Once they feed, that the digestive system goes through a massive remodelling phase. During digestion, the oxygen consumption level of the snake increases drastically. Compared to the resting phase, the oxygen level Rises from 17 to 40 Times. The entire digestive process from food intake to defecation lasts for 8 to 14 days.
The Burmese python has been listed under IUCN red list as vulnerable since 2012. According to the conservation society, the population of Burmese pythons has reduced by 30% in the 21st century due to over mass harvesting or habitation loss.
Protecting the Burmese python population, the IUCN recommends better conservation regulations and enforcement at the national and international level to stop python harvesting. IUCN also recommends thorough research into the Ecology and threats to the population of the Burmese python. These snakes are protected in Hong Kong, Thailand, China, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Python invention is extensive in various regions worldwide; however, it is most noticeable in Florida. These days in Florida’s Everglades, you can find a large number of Burmese python in the wild. The current number of Burmese pythons has reached the minimum viable population and has become an invasive species.
For this invasion, experts tend to blame Hurricane Andrew that caused devastation in 1992. This Storm destroyed a python zoo and breeding facility during that time, and it is believed that these escaped snakes have populated the Everglades of Florida. Till now, more than 1330 snakes have been captured from the Everglades.
Since 2012, the US Department of the interior has put a stop to the import of Burmese pythons in the United States. A 2012 report stated that in the invaded area, where the snakes’ population is well established, smaller mammals, like rabbits, and foxes have almost disappeared.
The sightings of raccoons are also down to 99.3%. Other than that, the white-tailed deer, opossum, and bobcat population is also dwindling. In some areas, the rabbit population has been eliminated, thanks to these pythons.
Experimental efforts to repopulate the areas where rabbits have been eliminated have failed, thanks to the high predation level of these pythons. The Coyote and bird population of Florida Everglades may be under threat. There is also worry over the future of Florida Panther.
Apart from that, these pythons have also impacted the marsh ecosystem of Florida. Studies have shown that the marsh rabbit population has decreased significantly. Along with that, many mammal populations have also faced a rapid decline. It is feared that these snakes may also outcompete the native predators when it comes to food.
Burmese pythons have also created an intense competition with American alligators. You can find numerous incidents where pythons and alligators are fighting for their lives. In some cases, researchers have also found evidence of pythons and alligators feeding on each other.
Since the last decade, several efforts have been taken to eliminate this invasive species from the Florida Everglades. Since 2017, the authorities are using a unique technique to track the level of invasion of Burmese Pythons. They are following the mosquito blood in search of python DNA. Even though Burmese pythons have been introduced to Florida Everglades recently, mosquitoes tend to use them as a host. So, by checking mosquito blood, the scientists can determine whether the Burmese pythons are present or absent in the ecosystem. It will help them plan for restoration and remove these snakes from the Everglades region of Florida.
The Burmese python is a trendy pet across the world, thanks to its nature. However, these snakes have a very rapid growth rate. By age four years old, the Burmese pythons tend to reach their mature size. However, they can keep on growing for the rest of their life, even though that may be very slow. These pythons are opportunistic feeders. They will keep on feeding almost anytime you offer them food. Even if these snakes have eaten recently, they will act hungry if you provide them with extra food. As a result, these snakes often suffer from obesity-related problems in captivity.
Even though these snakes are pretty easygoing, you should not let your guard down while handling them. These snakes are mighty powerful with a severe bite. Not only that, the snakes can kill a full-grown adult through constriction. So you need to understand the portion sizes and how often you give food to them. Also, you will need to create custom-built enclosures for these snakes for security. If you release the snakes in the wild, they can become invasive species, leading to deforestation of the local environment. That is why some countries have implemented restrictions on Burmese pythons as pets.