Dogs trained in a project at Auburn University called Eco Dogs are being used to find invasive Burmese Pythons in Florida. In areas of the Everglades where they have established themselves, the very large snakes have decimated local populations of wild animals. Marsh rabbits, foxes, raccoons, opossums and white-tailed deer sightings have been reduced by well over 90 percent. The snakes are foreign to these local animals and sometimes they don’t recognize them as predators until it is too late. Growing up to 16 feet long and 150 pounds, they are formidable opponents and can reproduce rapidly.
The Everglades are a very important ecosystem and the introduced snakes are causing widespread destruction. The pythons are very elusive and hard to find in a huge wild national park like the Everglades.
That’s where the dogs come in. In a test, two Labrador Eco Dogs were able to detect pythons in canals with 92 percent accuracy. Their human counterparts were measured at 64 percent for the same test. The dogs found 19 pythons in their survey, and one of the pythons was incubating nearly 20 eggs.
Pythons don’t attack the dogs when they are spotted, because their first defense is to curl up in a circle and try to hide. Also, the dogs don’t get too close and simply wait until their human team members arrive.
These same dogs previously had been used to find scat samples in the wild from rare or endangered species, to help conservation researchers.
Exotic animals that escape or are released into the wild by pet owners can do tremendous damage to local wildlife and habitats. Currently there is no known solution to Florida’s python problem, and it is likely to require much money and time to address. In the meantime, many wild animals in Florida will be consumed.
Image Credit: Public Domain, Wiki Commons