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Publication #WEC287

Florida Invader: Northern African Pythons or African Rock Pythons1

Steve Johnson and Monica McGarrity2

This fact sheet is best viewed as a pdf, available here:

Figure 1. 

African python (Python sebae).


Lori Oberhofer, National Park Service (2009)

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Report African python sightings immediately:

1-888-IveGot1 (1-888-483-4681; live animals only) (provide photos if possible)

The African python (Python sebae), native to sub-Saharan Africa, has been introduced in a small area of Florida on the outskirts of Miami. Recent evidence suggests this species may be breeding in Florida, and efforts are being made to prevent Northern African pythons from becoming widespread in southern Florida. This is a large, nocturnal predator that may grow to more than 20 feet long and kills its prey by constriction. In Florida, prey taken by African pythons is probably similar to that eaten by Burmese pythons, and could include native mammals, birds, and reptiles. Several threatened and endangered species could be at risk, particularly wading birds such as wood storks. African pythons inhabit marshy lowlands, drier uplands, and urban canals. Females can breed at three to five years of age and lay up to 100 eggs (usually 1–4 dozen). Lifespan is 15–30 years. Although pythons generally shy away from humans, there are reports of African pythons in their native range attacking humans. This is a potentially aggressive, dangerous species, especially if handled or harassed.

Figure 2. 

The African python's head is marked with a dark arrowhead, fading toward the snout, with a light line down the center. There are dark and light wedge-shaped marks under each eye.


Lori Oberhofer, National Park Service (2009); Illustration by United States Geological Survey (2009)

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 3. 

The African python's body is tan to gray with irregular, dark brown spots down the back and sides. Spots on the back usually connect; spots on the sides may be C-shaped.


Lori Oberhofer, National Park Service (2009); Illustration by Monica E. McGarrity, University of Florida (2010)

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 4. 

You can tell the difference between "dead-on-road" (DOR) Burmese (top) and African (bottom) python specimens by the belly pattern—African pythons have completely speckled bellies.


Robert Reed, United States Geological Survey, 2010

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]


Learn to identify and report pythons


This project was made possible in part by a grant from the South Florida National Parks Trust and the Ferris Greeney Family Foundation, and by the USDA-RREA. This document was created as additional reference material for the Introduced Reptile Early Detection and Documentation training program, also known as REDDy. For more information, visit



This document is WEC287, one of a series of the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date August 2010. Revised February 2014 and June 2017. Visit the EDIS website at


Steve A. Johnson, associate professor and Extension specialist, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation; and Monica McGarrity, Extension program assistant; Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

This fact sheet was made possible in part by a grant from the South Florida National Parks Trust and the Ferris Greeney Family Foundation, and by the USDA-RREA. Photos/Illustrations by USGS, Monica McGarrity (UF), Robert Reed (USGS), and Lori Oberhofer (NPS).

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.