OCHOPEE, Fla. (WSVN) — It’s a rare sight to behold: an alligator finding out the hard way that it’s not at the top of the food chain.
That’s exactly what happened as Joe Capozzi, a reporter for the Palm Beach Post, witnessed a Burmese python strangling the gator in the water mere feet away from the bike path he was riding in Big Cypress, about 50 miles west of Miami.
“It was all at once terrifying, mesmerizing, and beautiful, a battle between predator and prey that at times looked as graceful as a water ballet,” Capozzi wrote in the Post. “Once I got the iPhone video rolling, I couldn’t stop watching.”
Capozzi said he watched for 15 minutes as the gator struggled, and ultimately failed, to break free of the python’s deadly grasp.
“That video is amazing,” David True, a Big Cypress National Preserve park ranger, told Capozzi. “That’s something you don’t see every day.”
Capozzi later spoke with Tony Pernas, the invasive species expert for Big Cypress.
“I’ve been working with invasive species since 1988 and I haven’t heard of anybody telling me they witnessed a python eating an alligator. It’s pretty rare,” Pernas said.
Burmese pythons come from southeast Asia and are not native to Florida, having been released into the Everglades illegally by pet owners. Over the past three decades, the invasive species has had a devastating effect on the ecosystem, killing native animals, including rabbits, bobcats, gators, and even small deer.
The pythons have posed such a problem that the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission has set up several “Python Challenges” for the public to hunt the serpents.
FWC officials said the hunts help raise awareness about the threat the invasive species poses to native Florida plants and wildlife. Pythons in particular are blamed for significant drop-offs in native mammal populations in the Everglades.
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