Friday, December 10, 2010

Meet Big Bertha

From the desk of Kelly Putnam, Aquarist

Stop by our current changing exhibit, Alien Attack: Target Everglades, to see our  Burmese Python, Big Bertha, aka B.B.. While she is 10 feet long and weighs in at about 70 pounds, Burmese pythons can reach lengths of 23 feet long or more, weigh up to 200–plus pounds and have a girth as big as a telephone pole. They are among the four largest snakes in the world, which also include the Green Anaconda, Reticulated Python, and African Rock Python.

In the wild, Burmese Pythons usually eat birds and small mammals, although sometimes they will eat other reptiles including snakes and lizards. Our Python, B.B., eats very large rats that are shipped to us frozen then thawed out and warmed up. Because she is such a large snake we only feed her every other week. She is most active at feeding time. As soon as she is offered the rat, she strikes and grabs hold, quickly coiling around it and squeezing just like she would if it were live prey. After she feels she has "killed" her rat she proceeds to swallow it whole.

Burmese pythons are native to the jungles and grassy areas in Southeast Asia. Now, however, they have become an invasive species throughout most of Florida, because they have escaped from or been released from captivity. Because Burmese pythons are so readily available in pet stores, they are a popular pet snake. Unfortunately many people do not do enough research and purchase a hatching Burmese python, not realizing that they grow an average of six inches a month or six-seven feet per year. So not only does their need for space quickly increase, so does the cost of feeding them. This is why so many pet owners have simply released their large snakes into the wild, not realizing that by doing so they are putting animals into an eco-system where they do not belong.

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