(SNAKES/REPTILES) Like it or not, the world’s largest snakes, South American green anacondas, are marking their territory on every map of Florida.

An average green anaconda can weigh up to 150 pounds and grow more than 22 feet long, making the snakes a dangerous addition to Florida’s swamps, but many of them outgrow these numbers.

The green anaconda is native to South America but has started breeding in Florida.
The green anacondas arrival in the Florida Everglades has become incredibly destructive to the ecosystem. Photo Credit: National Geographic

The animals’ presence in the Florida Everglades rivals the area’s most invasive species, the Burmese Python. However, the anaconda species is geared for a better chance of survival because they aren’t prey for fire ants like their python cousins. Fire ant bites are designed to slow prey down so they can be swarmed.

Python mothers spend months each year guarding their eggs, leaving them and their unborn young highly susceptible to fire ant swarms. The green anacondas don’t face the same fire ant threat for a number of reasons.

Unlike the Burmese Python, green anacondas give birth to live young, making it easy for them to avoid fire ant attacks. What’s more, anacondas hardly come in contact with fire ants because they spend most of their time in the water, while pythons mainly dwell in trees and on land.

If these anacondas continue to thrive in the Everglades, the rest of the area’s wildlife will certainly suffer. Alligators and bobcats were once the top predators in the swamps, but now they have a formidable contender in the green anaconda.

Wildlife counts taken in 2012 show the bobcat and opossum populations have declined by 88 percent, with the raccoon population decreased by 99 percent.

Pythons and anacondas have made their home in the Florida wild because of the destruction caused by hurricanes in neighboring snake farms. Some of the animals also escaped their houses when they were kept as exotic pets, and continue to breed in the wild.

What’s happening in the Florida Everglades is a testament to the danger of owning exotic pets. Wild animals are meant to be kept in their natural habitats; a fact that some exotic pet owners learn all too late.

The Burmese Python population continues to swell within the Everglades.
The Burmese Python is incredibly invasive to Florida, but it’s finding stiff competition in the green anaconda. Photo Credit: smithsonianmag.com

The green anaconda’s transplantation in the Everglades has severely disrupted the ecosystem’s food chain, and the green anaconda’s introduction to the area will be a challenge for the ecosystem to overcome.

We must always remember that animals belong to very specific and delicate ecosystems, and if they’re relocated by humans, we must learn to face the consequences.

— Anthony Armentano, exclusive to Global Animal