Dogs Help Researchers Track Pythons in the Everglades


Dog handler Jason Dewitt, researcher Christina Romagosa, doctoral student Melissa Miller and dog trainer Bart Rogers with sniffer dogs Ivy and Jake, with a large pregnant Burmese python.

photo by Ches Smith/ oanow.com

Two black Labrador retrievers from Auburn University’s EcoDogs project have been sniffing out Burmese pythons in South Florida, helping the Army Corps of Engineers study how to eradicate the large constrictors. Since the first python was spotted in 1979, the population of these non-native snakes has exploded, and scientists estimate that there are now tens of thousands wreaking havoc with the ecosystem. That’s where Jake and Ivy come in:

“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 Auburn’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences]. “Dog search teams can cover more distance and can have higher accuracy rates in particular scenarios than human searchers. We suggest that dogs be used as a complement to current search and trapping methods.”

The dogs are trained to sit when they get within five meters of a python, so they don’t put themselves in danger. Ironically, these water-loving dogs have to be trained to stay out of the water, lest they fall prey to other predators.

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