Florida Man often makes ridiculous headlines, but what about Florida Snake? There’s now been a peer-reviewed finding that a Burmese python in the Sunshine State ingested a baby deer that weighed more than it, in what’s believed to be the biggest python-to-prey size discrepancy documented to date. Back in 2015, in Collier Seminole State Park in Naples, wildlife biologists tracking pythons stumbled across an 11-foot snake, and “when they moved the creature, it began regurgitating a white-tailed deer fawn.” That finding has since been peer-reviewed and is set for journal publication this month, leading to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida announcing it this week. Here’s more from Patrick Riley of The Naples Daily News:
While tracking pythons in Collier Seminole State Park, a group of wildlife biologists from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and land managers from the state park stumbled on an unsettling discovery: an 11-foot Burmese python that had devoured a white-tailed deer fawn weighing more than the snake.
The 2015 finding, which has since been peer-reviewed and is set to be published in the Herpetological Review this month, is believed to be the largest python-to-prey ratio documented to date, with the snake weighing 31.5 pounds and the deer 35 pounds, said Ian Bartoszek, wildlife biologist and science coordinator for the conservancy.
“It almost did not compute,” he said during an announcement of the findings in the conservancy’s snake laboratory Thursday.
“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. It’s surreal to see that in the field.”
Well, that’s mildly terrifying. And the scientists note in that story that if the python hadn’t been disturbed, it would have eventually fully digested the fawn. Oh, and these Burmese pythons (which came to Florida as pets in the 1970s and now have spread throughout much of the state in the wild, posing threats to the ecosystem in the process) have been known to eat full adult deer, alligators and other large animals too, so it’s not that it was the size of the deer alone that was significant. What was remarkable was that the python, which was relatively small for its species, ate something 1.11 times larger than it. And that’s concerning for those worried about pythons’ impact on Florida’s wildlife, including the white-tailed deer, which are an important food source for the endangered Florida panther. (No, not the hockey team, although their playoff chances are currently endangered.)
But hey, a Florida animal that came up with one ridiculous victory over something bigger, then sat around bloated before regurgitating its prey and eventually being euthanized? Why does that sound so familiar?