Officials investigating presence of green anacondas in Collier County

Officials investigating presence of green anacondas in Collier County

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — They’re known as the largest snake in the world, reaching lengths of up to 25 feet and weighing almost 500 pounds.

Now officials think they could be living here in Southwest Florida. We’re talking about the green anaconda.

It’s an Amazon River monster thats already been documented a few times in Florida over the past 20 years.

But now the U.S. Geological Survey thinks a colony could be living in Fakahatchee Strand Preserve in Collier County.

But with only a small handful of these snakes found over the past 20 years, how many could actually be out there?

At a steamy 82 degrees, last night along U.S. 41 was the perfect condition for catching snakes. We tagged along with amateur python hunters Steven Gauta and Jake Waleri, the same hunters that recently caught the longest Burmese python ever documented at 19 feet long.

It didn’t take long for us to find ourselves a Burmese python hatchling, along with lots of other native snakes — like a banded water snake, the rare rough green snake and the venomous cottonmouth.

But among all these snakes, it begs the question: Where are the anacondas?

Dr. Andrew Durso, a herpetologist from FGCU, explained that it could be for a few reasons.

“I think that’s the question, are they established?” Durso said. “They are really difficult to detect, they are even more aquatic than Burmese pythons. So they spend even more time in the water, so you wouldn’t even notice them, especially somewhere out in the Fakahatchee where people don’t go.”

On top of that, unlike the nests of eggs Burmese pythons will lay, green anacondas give live birth, which means they don’t even have to leave the water to do it.

“We won’t know until we observe reproduction in the wild if it’s happening, but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Dr. Durso added.

And while Durso said he believes the environment here is suitable for them, with so many snake hunters already out there, you’d think more would have been caught by now if there were a colony, which leads some like Steven Gauta to think the news is more about cracking down on invasive reptiles.

“But it does seem to be kind of coincidental that this interest in green anacondas is happening right around a time a few bills or laws that are being introduced to crack down on reptile transport and reptile keepers,” Gauta said.

Leaving the potential for a breeding colony of green anacondas in the Everglades still within the realm of mystery.

“There’s always people trying to say they have a spot where this really cool unique animal, or where they say this cool unique animal. It’s almost looking for Bigfoot sometimes. I mean, sure maybe it’s out there, but probably not.” Gauta added.

This article by Alex Howard was first published by ABC-7 on 1 August 2023. 

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