By Jocelyn Heaney February 13, 2012
Sometimes when man creates a huge problem that destroys the balance of the ecosystem, man’s best friend must come in and sort it out.
Oanow reports that Jake and Ivy, two Labradors from Alabama's Auburn University, were recently called to the swamps of Florida to find a formidable non-native species: the Burmese Python.
Brought to Florida by the exotic pet trade, and set free in the Everglades, the Southeast Asian snakes are normally about 12 feet long but can reach lengths of up to 19 feet.
Opportunistic eaters, pythons have all but wiped out marsh rabbits, opossums, and raccoons in the southern region of Everglades National Park, according to a nine-year study.
Terry Fischer and Craig Angle of Auburn’s EcoDog program traveled to Florida to pick up samples of the species’ scent and then imprinted the dogs with the essence of Burmese python.
“We found the use of detection dogs to be a valuable addition to the current tools used to manage and control pythons,” said Christina Romagosa, of AU’s School of Forestry and Wildlife, in a press release. The dogs can detect pythons from a distance and when they spot one they stop in their tracks and crouch. The pythons’ reaction is strangely poignant. Rather than striking when discovered, they curl up and hide.
“It’s their first line of defense,” said Melissa Miller, biological sciences doctoral student who handled the snakes. “People think when you catch a snake it’s going to come back biting at you...but they see us as a predator even though they’re a large snake.”
So far Jake and Ivy have located 19 pythons, one of which had 19 eggs.