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Publication #WEC296

Possible Florida Invader: Ball Python1

Steve Johnson and Monica McGarrity2

Report sightings: www.IveGot1.org

Figure 1. 

Ball python (Python regius) Credits: John White, 2006


Credit:

John White, 2006 (top right)


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

The ball python (Python regius) is native to sub-Saharan Africa. This species is not established in Florida but is very common in the pet trade, and escaped or released pets are occasionally encountered in the wild. This nocturnal predator is the smallest of the pythons likely to be encountered in Florida and is usually only three to four feet long. In its native range, it preys almost exclusively on rodents and kills its prey by constriction. If the ball python were introduced in Florida, the impacts of this small species would likely be minimal, although it could prey on threatened and endangered rodent species. In their native range, ball pythons inhabit grasslands and open forests. Ball pythons do not breed every year and lay only 4–10 eggs during cooler months. Ball pythons are known to harbor many bacteria and parasites that could potentially infect native reptiles.

Identification

Learn to identify and report pythons at http://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/reddy.shtml

Figure 2. 

The ball python’s head is dark brown and marked with broad, tan eye stripes from the snout through the eyes to the back of the head, creating a dark arrowhead shape on top of the head.


Credit:

Patrick Lynch, SFWMD, 2009; Illustration by Monica E. McGarrity, University of Florida, 2010


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 3. 

The ball python’s body is dark brown with rounded yellowish tan blotches. The blotches often have darker brown spots inside, making them look a bit like ghost or alien faces.


Credit:

Patrick Lynch, SFWMD, 2009; Illustration by Monica E. McGarrity, University of Florida, 2010


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 4. 

When threatened, ball pythons curl into a defensive ball posture, coiling their bodies around their heads for protection.


Credit:

Patrick Lynch, SFWMD, 2009


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Acknowledgments

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. 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 http://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/reddy.shtml.

Footnotes

1.

This document is WEC296, one of a series of the Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date February 2011. Revised February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Steve A. Johnson, associate professor and Extension specialist, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611; 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), Patrick Lynch (SFWMD), and John White.


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.