Biological Invasions

, Volume 18, Issue 11, pp 3239–3250 | Cite as

Betrayal: radio-tagged Burmese pythons reveal locations of conspecifics in Everglades National Park

  • Brian J. SmithEmail author
  • Michael S. Cherkiss
  • Kristen M. Hart
  • Michael R. Rochford
  • Thomas H. Selby
  • Ray W. Snow
  • Frank J. Mazzotti
Original Paper


The “Judas” technique is based on the idea that a radio-tagged individual can be used to “betray” conspecifics during the course of its routine social behavior. The Burmese python (Python bivittatus) is an invasive constrictor in southern Florida, and few methods are available for its control. Pythons are normally solitary, but from December–April in southern Florida, they form breeding aggregations containing up to 8 individuals, providing an opportunity to apply the technique. We radio-tracked 25 individual adult pythons of both sexes during the breeding season from 2007–2012. Our goals were to (1) characterize python movements and determine habitat selection for betrayal events, (2) quantify betrayal rates of Judas pythons, and (3) compare the efficacy of this tool with current tools for capturing pythons, both in terms of cost per python removed (CPP) and catch per unit effort (CPUE). In a total of 33 python-seasons, we had 8 betrayal events (24 %) in which a Judas python led us to new pythons. Betrayal events occurred more frequently in lowland forest (including tree islands) than would be expected by chance alone. These 8 events resulted in the capture of 14 new individuals (1–4 new pythons per event). Our effort comparison shows that while the Judas technique is more costly than road cruising surveys per python removed, the Judas technique yields more large, reproductive females and is effective at a time of year that road cruising is not, making it a potential complement to the status quo removal effort.


Control tool Invasive species Catch per unit effort Judas Python bivittatus Radio-telemetry 



All python radio-tracking was permitted under University of Florida animal care protocols F162 and 009-08-FTL, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission permit ESC 08-02, and National Park Service (Everglades) permits EVER-2007-SCI-001, EVER-2009-SCI-001, and EVER-2011-SCI-0002. We thank M. Brien, J. Carrigan, A. Crowder, S. Gonzalez, B. Greeves, T. Hill, B. Jeffery, T. Kieckhefer, M. Parry, T. Walters, A. Wolf, and others for assistance in the field. Two anonymous reviewers, Associate Editor F. Kraus, and B. Falk provided valuable reviews that greatly improved this manuscript. Funding was provided by the National Park Service and the USGS Priority Ecosystem Science Program. References to non-USGS products and services are provided for information only and do not constitute endorsement or warranty, expressed or implied, by the U.S. Government, as to their suitability, content, usefulness, functioning, completeness, or accuracy. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian J. Smith
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael S. Cherkiss
    • 2
  • Kristen M. Hart
    • 2
  • Michael R. Rochford
    • 1
  • Thomas H. Selby
    • 1
  • Ray W. Snow
    • 3
  • Frank J. Mazzotti
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Fort Lauderdale Research and Education CenterUniversity of FloridaDavieUSA
  2. 2.Wetland and Aquatic Research CenterU.S. Geological SurveyDavieUSA
  3. 3.Everglades National ParkU.S. National Park ServiceHomesteadUSA

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