Monday, April 16, 2018

Judas Snakes May Be Key to Python Eradication

In just three days, a male python named Argo, who had a surgically implanted tracking device inside him, lead researchers to the largest trove of pythons found yet in Collier County, Florida.

The eight snakes, called a breeding aggregation, were the most found in one place in Southwest Florida and the western Everglades, where the pythons have been steadily spreading for years. It matches the largest aggregation found in the known hotbeds of the central and eastern Everglades, where the invasive and elusive predator has decimated entire populations of small mammals.... “You look at some 250 pounds of python and you just think, what did it take to make that?” Bartoszek said. “How much native wildlife did it take to produce those?”

Part of what makes pythons so hard to track is they leave virtually no trace of their prey. The animals are swallowed whole, leaving no carcass to find, and excrete very little. The only way to know what they're eating is to catch and dissect them, and to watch what species are disappearing from the wild.... The Conservancy estimates that 61 percent of the diet of pythons found in Collier County are small mammals such as rabbits, opossums and raccoons. Another 29 percent are rodents and birds.

“But if you go to the east coast, you’ll see those percentages flipped,” Bartoszek said. “There they’re eating almost all birds and rodents, because the rest are gone. You’d be very hard pressed to find a rabbit now in the east.”

Judas goats and Judas pigs are routinely used to find and locate feral goats and pigs for eradication, especially on mountainous islands. A goat or pig is captured, radio collared, and then released to rejoin whatever herd of pigs and goats it can find. Radio locators are used to pinpoint the movement of the animals, which are all shot except for the Judas which is released to join up with whatever remains.  The program is repeated until all the feral goat and pigs are gone.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Any idea of whether cane toads kill pythons?
Doesn't much bother me that opossum, racoons and rabbit populations are being reduced... maybe a good thing give loss on native Apex predators.
Snake phobia gets crazy, especially in the Bible thumping South.