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Written by author Kate Messner, "Tracking Pythons: The Quest to Catch an Invasive Predator and Save an Ecosystem" explains how Burmese pythons began breeding in Florida and are impacting the state's native species. The book, geared for students ages 8-14, also explores how the Conservancy is attempting to thwart the python's reign in the Everglades through research and decisive action.
The Conservancy, a national authority in python research, launched its Burmese Python Radio-Telemetry Study in 2013. Conservancy researchers have been documenting the python's biology, behavior and breeding habits to develop a database of python activities in Southwest Florida. Research findings help land managers create management strategies to control the invasive species.
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A key component of the research study is surgically implanting male pythons with a radio-transmitter before releasing sentinel snakes that lead researchers to other pythons during the breeding season. This tracking method helps the team to gain a better understanding of pythons' movement patterns while sending researchers directly to the nests of adult female pythons and their eggs. The captured pythons are humanely euthanized before Conservancy biologists perform a necropsy, log data and collect genetic samples for further studies.
"We not only are removing Burmese pythons from the wild, but also disrupting the breeding cycle of female pythons by destroying their eggs, which is helping slow the python's growth in our region of Florida," said Ian Bartoszek, environmental science project manager at the Conservancy. "Burmese pythons have been eating their way through the Everglades and destroying the region's ecosystem, so it's critically important that we stop the Burmese python in its tracks before it is too late."
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Burmese pythons can eat birds, rabbits, opossums, raccoons, bobcats, deer and even alligators.
Messner's book explains how a species native to Southeast Asia was discovered in the U.S. – dead alongside a Florida highway in 1979. From there, pet pythons that escaped or were released by their owners started breeding in the wild, quickly becoming the apex predator and destroying the natural food chain that existed for centuries.
"Tracking Pythons: The Quest to Catch an Invasive Predator and Save an Ecosystem" is available in both a Kindle and hard copy version through Amazon at Amazon.com/Tracking-Pythons-Invasive-Predator-Ecosystem/dp/1541557069 (https://www.amazon.com/Tracking-Pythons-Invasive-Predator-Ecosystem/dp/1541557069). Digital readers can watch video clips and see additional photographs of scientists in the field.
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