Tracking Pythons: The Quest to Catch an Invasive Predator and Save an Ecosystem
Burmese pythons are invading Florida.
These enormous snakes are native to Southeast Asia, so when one showed up dead along the side of a Florida highway in 1979, scientists wondered where it came from. No one knew the snakes had launched a full-scale invasion. Pet pythons that escaped or were released by their owners started breeding in the wild, and these enormous predators began eating every animal in their path.
Today a group of scientists at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida is tracking Burmese pythons to find ways to stop their spread. Page Plus QR code links lead to video clips and photos of the scientists working in the field. Delve into the science of pythons and their role as invasive predators.
"[A] fascinating example of field biology . . . Who knew that snake science could be so adventurous?"--starred, Kirkus Reviews
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"Scientists wrestle 100-pound snakes, wade through swamps, perform delicate surgery, and fly in small planes searching for Burmese pythons hiding and multiplying in southern Florida. The baleful python on the cover will draw readers in, and Messner's recurring descriptions of the snake-catchers in action will keep them engaged. She introduces the team from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida with an account of a tracking expedition. She explains why South Florida is a "perfect home" for these large predators and how the scientists capture snakes, implant radio transmitters, release them, and then follow them in the wild to find other pythons. She notes their affection for the snakes as well as their sadness that part of their job involves euthanizing females in an effort to keep this invasive apex predator from eating nearly everything else living in the delicate Florida ecosystem. She places this campaign in the context of worldwide efforts against invasive species. Well-captioned photographs, maps, and diagrams break up the text and add information. Videos of some of the episodes described are available via QR codes scattered throughout. In a page of profiles of the participating scientists (two men, two women, all apparently white), all four are shown holding huge snakes. This fascinating example of field biologyholds its own against the exemplary Scientists in the Field series. Who knew that snake science could be so adventurous?"--starred, Kirkus Reviews-- (1/1/2020 12:00:00 AM)
"This thoroughly engrossing field guide takes readers into the 'scrublands and swamps' of South Florida, where scientists are battling the explosive population growth of Burmese pythons, an invasive species from Southeast Asia. Messner writes vividly about the ecosystem of South Florida ('a place that insists on being wild') and the serious effects that these non-native reptile 'eating machines' have on indigenous animals. And she covers a lot of ground here, discussing everything from the python's life cycle to the history of its invasion of Florida to the conclusions gleaned from python necropsy. But the real highlight is an in-depth look at the radio telemetry project conducted by researchers at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, by which the scientists find an 'unlikely ally' in a group of captured male pythons tagged with radio transmitters. Messner shares profiles of the scientists and--notably--of many of the tagged snakes (Argo, Elvis, Stella, and others), a nod to the affection and respect the researchers have for these reptiles: 'It's not so much now the Burmese python. This is now our Everglades python. It's our creature.' Visuals--maps, diagrams, photographs, and QR codes for online videos--abound, and the back matter is extensive, with an author's note, an 'Invasive Species Most Wanted List, ' a Burmese python invasion timeline, a glossary, a bibliography, further reading suggestions, and an index."--The Horn Book Magazine-- (5/1/2020 12:00:00 AM)
"As Burmese pythons thrive in south Florida, they decimate native wildlife and disrupt the natural ecosystem. Scientists speculate that this invasive species was introduced by pet owners who no longer wanted or could care for these snakes. Florida's climate, swamps, and plentiful food provide the perfect breeding ground for the pythons, whose numbers have become a staggering, unmanageable problem. Veteran children's author Messner was curious to learn more about the python problem and what was being done to control their growing numbers. In this photo-rich examination, she heads to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, where researchers are busy locating pythons (easier said than done), inserting transmitters in male snakes, euthanizing females and small snakes, and destroying eggs when they find them. She accompanies python project manager Ian Bartoszek and his crew on their daily treks into the swamps and observes their work in the lab. Messner's compelling photo-essay gives an inside look at the researchers' hot, dirty, grueling (and often frustrating) work and offers an extensive bibliography for further research."--Booklist-- (3/1/2020 12:00:00 AM)