There are new predators in the Everglades that eat alligators whole :
MSNBC News article
Updated: 4:42 p.m. ET Oct. 5, 2005
MIAMI - The alligator has some foreign competition at the top of the Everglades food chain, and the results of the struggle are horror-movie messy.
A 13-foot Burmese python recently burst after it apparently tried to swallow a live, six-foot alligator whole, authorities said.
(see picture at the bottom)
The incident has heightened biologistsâ€™ fears that the non-native snakes could threaten a host of other animal species in the Everglades.
â€œIt means nothing in the Everglades is safe from pythons, a top-down predator,â€ said Frank Mazzotti, a University of Florida wildlife professor.
Over the years, many pythons have been abandoned in the Everglades by pet owners.
The gory evidence of the latest gator-python encounter â€” the fourth documented in the past three years â€” was discovered and photographed last week by a helicopter pilot and wildlife researcher.
The snake was found with the gatorâ€™s hindquarters protruding from its midsection. Mazzotti said the alligator may have clawed at the pythonâ€™s stomach as the snake tried to digest it.
In previous incidents, the alligator won or the battle was an apparent draw.
â€œThere had been some hope that alligators can control Burmese pythons,â€ Mazzotti said. â€œThis indicates to me itâ€™s going to be an even draw. Sometimes alligators are going to win and sometimes the python will win.â€
It is unknown how many pythons are competing with the thousands of alligators in the Everglades, but at least 150 have been captured in the past two years, said Joe Wasilewski, a wildlife biologist and crocodile tracker.
Pythons could threaten many smaller species that conservationists are trying to protect, including other reptiles, otters, squirrels, woodstorks and sparrows, Mazzotti said.
Wasilewski said a 10- or 20-foot python also could pose a risk to an unwary human, especially a child. He added, however, â€œI donâ€™t think this is an imminent threat. This is not a â€˜Be afraid, be very afraidâ€™ situation.â€