March 28, 2015

Headlines Now:

Winter Haven Police Executed a Search Warrant on a Suspected Drug House, Which put a Convicted Felon Back Behind Bars -

Friday, March 27, 2015

Keep Polk County Beautiful, Inc. Will Hold a FREE Tire Recycling Event on Saturday, April 4, 2015 from 9 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. -

Friday, March 27, 2015

Fun Friday – The Story of Jesus – Hardee County Cattleman’s Arena -

Friday, March 27, 2015

POLK MUGSHOT OF THE DAY – MARCH 27, 2015 -

Friday, March 27, 2015

Semi Vs. Pickup Towing 32Ft. Trailer Slowing I-4 Traffic In Davenport -

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Oasis Spa Has a Special for Today and Tomorrow -

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wacky Wednesday – Elizabeth Sullivan, 104 Years Old, Credits Dr Pepper For Her Longevity -

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

POLK MUGSHOT OF THE DAY – MARCH 25, 2015 -

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

TJ Maxx Makes An Immediate Impact On Community With $5,000 Donation -

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

4 Haines City Residents In Serious Condition After Accident On Hwy 27 -

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

19-year-old Auburndale Man Charged in Shaken Baby Syndrome Case -

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office Currently Conducting Death Investigation in Loughman -

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

POLK MUGSHOT OF THE DAY – MARCH 24, 2015 -

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Get a Spring in Your Step With Oasis Spa’s Blooming Spa Deal! -

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Cooking On The Ridge: Asparagus Roll Ups -

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Polk County Schools Early Release Wednesday -

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

UPDATE: Polk Man Dies After Suspicious Shooting -

Monday, March 23, 2015

Polk County Grow House Busted -

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sorensen & Schade Chevrolet Now Hiring Sales Men and Women -

Monday, March 23, 2015

POLK MUGSHOT OF THE DAY – MARCH 23, 2015 -

Monday, March 23, 2015

Pythons linked to Florida Everglades mammal decline

Christine Dell’Amore

National Geographic News

Published January 30, 2012

From rabbits to deer to even bobcats, invasive Burmese pythons appear to be eating through the Everglades’ supply of mammals, new research shows.

Since the giant constrictors took hold in Florida in 2000, many previously common mammals have plummeted in number—and some, such as cottontail rabbits, may be totally gone from some areas.

Scientists already knew from dissecting the 20-foot (6-meter) snakes that they prey on a wide range of species within Everglades National Park. (See a picture of a Burmese python that exploded eating an American alligator in the Everglades.)

But this is “the first study to show that pythons are having impacts on prey populations—and unfortunately those impacts appear to be pretty dramatic,” said study leader Michael Dorcas, a herpetologist at Davidson College in North Carolina.

“We started the study after we realized, Man, we’re not seeing a lot of these animals around anymore,” Dorcas said.

But “when we did the calculations, we were pretty astonished.”

 

(See “Alien Giant Snakes Threaten to Invade Up to a Third of U.S.”)

Burmese Pythons Causing “Severe Declines”?

For the study, Dorcas and colleagues conducted nighttime surveys of live and dead animals on roads between 2003 and 2011. Such numbers provide estimates of how many animals of a certain species are present in a given area.

The scientists compared these data with similar surveys conducted in 1996 and 1997.

Before 2000 it was common to see mammals such as rabbits, red foxes, gray foxes, Virginia opossums, raccoons, and white-tailed deer on roadways after dark, the team says.

But the 2003 to 2011 surveys—which covered a total of nearly 35,400 miles (57,000) kilometers of road—revealed “severe declines” in mammal sightings, according to the study, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Raccoon observations dropped by 99.3 percent, opossum by 98.9 percent, and bobcat by 87.5 percent. The scientists saw no rabbits or foxes at all during their surveys.

(Read about giant Burmese python meals that went bust.)

Also worrisome is what could be happening to species that were already rare—and thus more difficult to research, Dorcas noted.

For instance, it’s unknown whether the snakes are putting the squeeze on the Florida panther, a subspecies of cougar deemed endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

But “it’s not unreasonable to assume that a really large python could consume a Florida panther,” he said—the snakes are known to eat leopards in Southeast Asia.

(See “Hybrid Panthers Helping Rare Cat Rebound in Florida.”)

Impact of Everglades Mammal Decline Unknown

It’s difficult to predict how the decline in mammal populations will affect the Everglades, Dorcas said. (See Everglades pictures.)

But some species may even benefit from the python’s big appetite, he said. For example, turtle numbers are often kept down by raccoons, which eat the reptiles’ eggs. Without as many raccoons, “we may be knee-deep in turtles in 20 years,” he quipped.

Whit Gibbons is a professor emeritus of ecology and head of outreach for the Savannah River Ecology Lab at the University of Georgia.

“My bet is that some of the mammals that have been affected will partially recover by managing to adapt or adjust,” said Gibbons, who wasn’t involved with the study.

“It’s unlikely,” he added, “that raccoons are going to go extinct in Florida.”

But as long as pythons are there, the mammals won’t bounce back to their former levels, he said.

Meanwhile, some groups are mounting efforts to stem the spread of the Burmese python. The Nature Conservancy’s “Python Patrol,” for example, works to prevent the reptile from moving into the Florida Keys.

And on January 17 the U.S. Department of the Interior announced a new law banning importation and interstate transport of four species of invasive snakes, including the Burmese python.

“We have taken strong action to battle the spread of the Burmese python and other nonnative species that threaten the Everglades and other areas across the United States,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in a statement.

“There’s no single solution to this conservation challenge, but banning the importation and interstate transport of these invasive snakes is a critical step.”

Pythons’ Invasion an Opportunity?

The University of Georgia’s Gibbons sees the snakes’ invasion as a chance for scientists to track what happens to the Everglades.

Though the ecosystem “may not collapse, it will likely change,” he said. “That change would be very worthwhile to monitor from a scientific standpoint.

“Maybe next time we could prevent changes we don’t want to happen.”

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