The Everglades National Park in the US state of Florida is home to a stunning array of wildlife. There are more than 360 species of birds, including the great blue heron and the diminutive green variety. It is said to be the only place in the world where freshwater alligators and saltwater crocodiles co-exist. And then there are the non-native species that are throwing off nature’s balance. On a blisteringly hot late-October morning, wildlife biologist Ian Bartoszek, who heads the Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s snake research and removal programme, sloshes through a cypress swamp outside Naples. Holding an H-shaped antenna aloft in his right hand, he listens as the signal from the device in his other hand steadily increases. “As the beeps get louder, the giant snake is getting closer,” he says. Of all the invasive species plaguing the Everglades, the Burmese python is the most high-profile and, arguably, the most intractable. No one is quite sure how a snake native to Southeast Asia found its way into the wilds of South Florida in the late 1970s, although many believe the first were escaped – or released – pets. Estimates of their population run into the hundreds of thousands, and they are voracious. In 2015, Bartoszek’s team captured a 14kg female in the process of digesting a 15kg fawn. In all, the conservancy and its research partners have documented the remains of 23 species of mammal and 43 species of birds in the pythons’ bellies. Scientists suspect the python is responsible for the disappearance of up to 99 per cent of the marsh rabbits, raccoons and other small mammals in the national park. Pythons can remain underwater for as long as half an hour, and their black, brown and tan pattern helps them blend into both the marsh and higher sandy ground. All of which makes them almost impossible to find. So, since 2013, Bartoszek has been using pythons to catch pythons. Every two weeks, he flies over the area, picking up the unique signal of radio transmitters surgically implanted into 25 snakes and plugging their coordinates into a spreadsheet. The hope is that these so-called “Judas snakes” will lead them to others, especially breeding-age females. This day, they’ve picked up the signal of Python No. 21 – a 22kg , 5.2 metre male named Johnny Rebel who has helped find 20 adult pythons, including eight females carrying approximately 560 developing eggs. “He’s an MVP,” Bartoszek says with a grin. “Our most valuable python.” Bartoszek straps on a machete and, with a nod to Sherlock Holmes – “The game is afoot!” – plunges into the woods. Following deer paths, he and field technician Ian Easterling step over old barbed-wire fences and downed melaleuca trees as the receiver leads them deeper into the brush. The beeping intensifies. “We’re getting warmer,” Bartoszek says. “This looks snaky right here. This is where I would be.“ The great rape of the Everglades I see a head here!” Bartoszek shouts a few moments later. “Confirm!“ “There’s a snake moving here,” Easterling replies. Diving into the undergrowth, Bartoszek does a double-take: “Hold on a second. … There might be two pythons!” Johnny, it seems, has found a girlfriend. After catching their breath, he and Easterling plunge their heads into the thicket, where the fat reptile is coiled up – and staring right at Easterling. “Hi!” he says. “Don’t strike out!” Easterling grabs the tail as Bartoszek clamps a hand around the snake just behind the head. She is shedding, making it difficult to establish a grip. “Here comes the pretzel move,” Bartoszek shouts as the giant reptile writhes, flopping against his thigh with a thud. With a deep groan, she releases the contents of her digestive tract. The fight is over. Back in the lab, they weigh and measure their prize: nearly 4.2 metres and just over 43kg. After putting her in a case and locking her in a storeroom, Bartoszek sifts through her droppings, finding bits of bone and what turn out to be the hooves of a white-tail deer – the primary prey of the Florida panther, an endangered native species. “It feels like CSI Crime Scene here in this lab sometimes,” he says. “It’s the smoking gun, what’s going on out there in the Everglades.” In the past six years, the conservancy team has removed more than 500 pythons with a combined weight of about 6,000kg from a 130 sq km area. Despite that success, Bartoszek thinks that total eradication of the Burmese python “is off the table”. “It seems to be adapting and evolving real time here in the Everglades ecosystem,” he says. “It may be more appropriate to start referring to them as the Everglades python. Because they’re ours now. They’re here.” This article was curated by Young Post . Better Life is the ultimate resource for enhancing your personal and professional life.