Apr 5, 2022 - News

Bobcat provides hope for keeping invasive pythons in check

A bobcat springs at a python

A camera trap captured a bobcat facing off against a Burmese python. Photo: U.S. Geological Survey

Ecologists with the U.S. Geological Survey collected first-of-its-kind photographic evidence last year of a bobcat devouring python eggs in the Big Cypress National Preserve.

Driving the news: The finding, published last month in the journal Ecology and Evolution, suggests there's finally hope that a predator could halt the python's creeping dominance — by eating its eggs.

What they're saying: "This is the first documentation of any animal in Florida preying on python eggs, and the first evidence or description of such antagonistic interactions at a python nest," the authors wrote.

Why it matters: Tens of thousands of invasive Burmese pythons are spread over more than 1,000 square miles of South Florida and compete with native wildlife for food, causing severe population declines in Everglades National Park and Big Cypress.

  • Raccoons, opossums and bobcats have greatly declined since 1997. Marsh rabbits, cottontail rabbits and foxes effectively disappeared.

What happened: Ecologists trained a camera trap on a python nest to observe reproductive biology, but the camera caught a bobcat arriving to snack.

  • The cat came back three times that night, then returned the next morning to bury extra eggs in the ground.
  • The next day the camera caught the cat and snake in a fight.

Yes, but: It's possible that this interaction was an isolated incident.

  • Though it could also be possible that native species are beginning to respond to the presence of the python, and this could be a learned behavior that starts to happen regularly, the New York Times reports.

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