[Warning: This report contains graphic images]
Experts at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida will soon be publishing an interesting study - one which includes its documentation of a 14.29-kilogram Burmese python swallowing a heavier 15.88-kilogram young white-tailed deer.
According to a statement issued by the organisation, the discovery of the python was made in April 7, 2015 at the Collier-Seminole State Park. The python appeared "distended by a large food bulge."
Wildlife biologists captured the animal for study. Later in captivity, the 11-foot female python became stressed and regurgitated its large meal.
Experts believed the incident to be the largest predator-to-prey ratio ever documented for Burmese pythons, and possibly pythons in general. Additional observations and findings regarding the case will be published in the March 2018 issue of the journal Herpetological Review.
Burmese pythons are snakes native to tropical South and Southeast Asia. They may have entered the United States through the pet trade and were either set loose or escaped from their owners. The pythons are considered an invasive species in southwest Florida where these snakes have negatively affected the area's native wildlife.
Some studies suggest the pythons were 90 per cent responsible for the decline of small animals in the eastern Everglades. Discovering the deer in the python's stomach raised concerns that the snakes could even affect deer population by praying on the young.
Efforts are currently underway to reduce python population by removing female breeding pythons to disrupt the egg-laying cycle and prevent new pythons from being born.
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Researchers studying invasive Burmese pythons in Florida recently came upon something they had never seen before: an 11ft python that had consumed an entire deer that weighed more than the snake itself.
Desperately wanted: python hunters to tackle Florida's unwelcome intruder
The wildlife biologists stumbled upon the bloated snake in Collier Seminole state park. When they moved it, it began regurgitating a white-tailed deer fawn.
Biologist Ian Bartoszek told the Naples Daily News the fawn weighed 35lb; the snake 31.5lb.
“We were sitting there just trying to process that an animal this size could get its head around what turned out to be a deer,” Bartoszek said. “It’s surreal to see that in the field.”
Bartoszek said it was the largest python-to-prey weight difference he had measured.
Burmese pythons, which can grow to nearly 20ft, were brought to south Florida as pets in the late 1970s. Released into the wild, they have become a problematic invasive species.
White-tailed deer are an important food source for Florida’s endangered panthers, so the researchers are concerned the pervasive snakes could also affect the health of the big cats.
If the snake had been left in the wild, it would have digested the entire deer, Bartoszek said. The predator-to-prey size ratio, he said, stunned his team.
“It showed my team and myself what we were actually dealing with out there, what this python is capable of,” he told the newspaper.