ASHEBORO, NC - Michael E. Dorcas, reptile expert and co-author of a new book on the rapid spread of feral pythons in southern Florida, will present a free presentation on the problem and sign his latest publication at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, April 21, in the North Carolina Zoo's Stedman Education Center.

Invasive Pythons in the United States: Ecology of an Introduced Predator is the title of the new book co-authored by Dorcas and fellow reptile scientist John D. Willson. The book offers a detailed, comprehensive study of an invasive predator threatening one of America's most populous states.

While most people think of pythons as giant snakes in distant tropical jungles, Burmese pythons, which can reach lengths of over 20 feet and weigh over 200 pounds, are now thriving in southern Florida.

According to Dorcas and Willson, these natives of Asia are commonly kept as pets and presumably escaped or were released into the Everglades. They are now common in the region, spread over hundreds of square miles, and are breeding and appear to be expanding their range within Florida, the new book reports.

"Pythons are voracious ‘sit-and-wait' predators," according to the authors, "that feed on a variety of native wildlife including wading birds, bobcats, white-tailed deer and even alligators. Their presence has drawn dramatic media attention and stoked fears among the public that pythons may threaten not just native species, but humans as well," the duo report.

Despite this widespread concern, information has been limited to a few scientific publications and news coverage that varies widely in fact and accuracy. With Invasive Pythons in the United States, Dorcas and Willson provide the most reliable, up-to-date and scientifically grounded information on these invasive pythons. Filled with over 200 color photographs and 15 figures and maps, the book will help general readers and the scientific community better understand these fascinating animals and their troubling presence in the United States.

Dorcas is a professor of biology at Davidson College. He is the author of six previous books including, with coauthor Whit Gibbons, Snakes of the Southeast and Frogs and Toads of the Southeast. Willson is a postdoctoral research associate at Virginia Polytechnic and State University. He has published over 30 scientific papers and serves as a section editor for Snake Natural History Notes at Herpetological Review.

Dorcas is speaking at the N.C. Zoo at the invitation of Zoo Curator of Reptiles John Groves.

The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Dee A. Freeman, Secretary; Beverly E. Perdue, Governor.