Showing posts with label Florida. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Florida. Show all posts

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Dog Survives Coral Snakebite

It is good to know that coral snake antivenom, while apparently not available for humans in the USA, is available for dogs! The following story is from the Health New 

Gainesville resident Larry Ferguson relaxes at home with his dogs, Max, left, and Whiskey, who survived a coral snake bite after being treated at the UF Small Animal Hospital. (Photo courtesy of Larry Ferguson.) 
“Red on yellow, kill a fellow; red on black won’t hurt Jack” might be a familiar folk rhyme in Florida and elsewhere in the deep South to distinguish the deadly Eastern coral snake from the harmless scarlet king snake. But Larry Ferguson, who recently moved to Gainesville from Arkansas, had never heard of a coral snake, much less the danger they pose. 
Alerted by his two dogs barking, Ferguson went outside to find a colorful banded snake dead near a clearly distressed dog in the yard. A call to his veterinarian, Dr. Janine Tash of Aalatash Animal Hospital in Gainesville, revealed that the dog, a 3-year-old pit bull terrier named Whiskey, had most likely been bitten by a coral snake 
Ferguson was told that the University of Florida Small Animal Hospital was the only place his animal could receive the antivenom that could possibly save his life. He rushed Whiskey to the hospital’s emergency room. 
“In the yard, he’d been panting heavily,” Ferguson said. “On the drive to the ER, I could see him shaking. I knew he’d been bitten.” 
Upon Whiskey’s arrival at UF, however, emergency veterinarians noted that the dog was bright, alert and responsive with no visible signs of a snakebite, although they said this is not unusual because coral snakes have very small teeth. Whiskey received antivenom, but unfortunately developed paralysis despite the treatment. 
“Within only a few hours, Whiskey began showing clinical signs, becoming totally paralyzed and unable to breathe,” said Dr. Luiz Bolfer, a resident with the UF Small Animal Hospital’s emergency and critical care service. 
The dog, unable to breathe by himself, was placed on a mechanical ventilator for four days. The snake’s venom also led to acute kidney disease. Several different medications were administered to perfuse the animal’s kidneys, increase his urine output, decrease the acid in his stomach, regulate acidic content in his blood and control his irregular heartbeat, Bolfer said. 
“Whiskey had no muscle ability,” said Ferguson, who manages a textbook store in Gainesville. “His diaphragm wouldn’t work. His lungs were fine, but his muscles wouldn’t allow him to use them.” 
So Ferguson waited and hoped. 
“My first inclination was to pay for the antivenom and if that didn’t work …” he said, his voice trailing. “I’d always heard of people spending a lot of money on pets. Initially, you might say you won’t do that, but you never know what you’ll do when you’re in the situation. I wound up doing a lot more than I thought I would.” 
After four days at the UF Small Animal Hospital, Whiskey started to breathe on his own. Veterinarians took him off of the ventilator. The dog remained paralyzed, but was breathing normally. He began to improve a little every day, although veterinarians continued to treat him for the other problems and for pneumonia, a common complication associated with ventilator treatment 
“Finally, he started moving his legs and we moved him to a bed on the floor,” said Bolfer. “Whiskey was still not able to swallow due to his muscle paralysis, so we placed a feeding tube that bypasses the mouth to deliver food directly to his stomach.” 
On the eighth day, Whiskey began eating canned food on his own. The feeding tube was removed and 10 days after arrival, Whiskey was finally discharged and able to return home with his owner. 
“He’ fine,” Ferguson said. “He’s just tired a lot, but he’s been walking a lot. He’s just a sweet dog to begin with.” 
During the course of treatment, UF veterinarians finally found the snake’s tiny bite marks … on Whiskey’s tongue.

Friday, November 18, 2011

More Opinions on Invasive Pythons

The Orlando Sentinel web site is carrying an opinion piece on the Everglades' python problem this morning that seems to be motivated by photos of large snakes eating deer. The writer states,
"Last year, the Legislature sought to wrestle some control by banning the import, sale, breeding and possession as pets of six species of large constrictor snakes. The problem, though, is that breeders can still possess, breed and import the slithery troublemakers for their business. That leaves Florida, and its wildlife and habitat, still vulnerable. It's people, too — as we saw with the tragic 2009 death of a Sumter County 2-year-old, crushed to death in her crib by a starving family pet python that tried to eat her. 
"It's time the Sunshine State get an assist from a more authoritative source — the White House. The Obama administration has been sitting on a proposed rule to ban the interstate transport and importation throughout the country of the most harmful constrictors, those identified in a 2009 U.S. Geological Survey as posing the most risk to America's natural resources."
 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to target eleven species of large constrictors in March including some not currently banned under Florida law. Two, or more, of the  species have already established populations; and, some see these snakes as serious threat to the Florida panther and Key deer as well as other native wildlife.

While I can appreciate the writers' viewpoint. The python is already out of the bag. Preventing future colonization and contributions to the already established gene pool is useful, but the real damage has already been done. The pythons are already established. If there are any lessons to be learded from Guam's brown tree snake invasion, its that invasive snakes probably can not be eradicated once they are established.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Another Book Review on Invasive Pythons

The following is a book review from Whit Gibbons on the Dorcas and Wilson volume. The review was published in the Aiken Standard.

"Invasive Pythons in the United States: Ecology of an Introduced Predator" might be the title of a great new horror film instead of the well-researched, professional yet entertaining book that it is. Written by Michael E. Dorcas and John D. Willson (2011, University of Georgia Press, Athens; $24.95) "Invasive Pythons" sets the record straight about the thousands of Burmese pythons introduced from Asia that now thrive in Florida. These snakes can be longer than two pickup trucks parked end to end and weigh more than an NFL linebacker. Not a pet snake you'd want to drape around your neck.

Nonetheless, released or escaped animals from the pet snake trade are almost certainly the origin of these enormous nuisance predators that now slither through southern Florida. What do pythons eat? In their native lands from India to China they have been documented to eat mammals as large as jackals, monkeys, antelope, and even a leopard. Accounts of humans becoming python prey are rare but unfortunately true. In their new home in the Everglades National Park and surrounding areas, pythons have found plenty of native mammals and birds to consume, some in disturbingly high numbers. Alligators as well as virtually all warm-blooded wildlife are apparently fair game. A valid concern is that pythons in Florida will eventually consume pets such as dogs and cats. Records already exist of their eating domestic chickens, geese, and turkeys.

The book's focus is on Burmese pythons, but the authors also discuss the potential risk of other species of pythons and boas becoming established in southern Florida. Included are African rock pythons and green anacondas. Both reach lengths exceeding 25 feet and have been found in the Everglades.

A feature that will captivate many readers--from youngsters enthralled with snakes to naturalists of any ilk to professional herpetologists--are the 188 outstanding high-resolution color photographs. To say that some are dramatic would be an understatement. The picture of the authors and two colleagues holding a 16-foot female Burmese python captured at night in Everglades National Park is enough to make anyone realize that studying these reptiles is an adventure. Other Everglades photos include a large python coiled around an adult great blue heron that's about to become lunch and a giant alligator eating a large python. A photo of a female python coiled around her eggs illustrates a more maternalistic trait: the mother staying with the clutch until they hatch, thus incubating them by raising her own body temperature and protecting them from predators.

Barring yet unknown population controls for these invasive predators, which can hatch more than 40 young from a clutch, Burmese pythons can now be considered part of the naturalized fauna of Florida. Are they likely to expand their geographic range into Georgia, Alabama, the Carolinas, and beyond? According to the authors, expanding their range outside of Florida will take quite awhile. How far north they can go is heavily debated by scientists and commercial python breeders. In their native range in Asia, they extend into cool areas in central China and to the foothills of the Himalayas in India and Nepal. But new population centers in the United States could arise in another way. Without originating from the solidly established Florida population, a released female python that has outgrown its owner's cage might ultimately be the source of a new population in California, Louisiana, or other temperate regions in southern portions of the country. On the other hand, large pythons have been found in recent months as far up peninsular Florida as Lake Okeechobee, almost a hundred miles north of the heavy concentrations in the Everglades.

Hollywood screenplay writers and science fiction authors hold the franchise on horror tales of Earth being invaded by scary monsters. The gigantic, stealthy, and potentially man-eating predator described in "Invasive Pythons" is scarier than any of those imaginary creatures because it's real. Whether for its scientific facts, fascinating natural history information, entertainment value, or striking photography the book by Mike Dorcas and J. D. Willson should appeal to a wide audience.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Invasive Pythons, The Book

Humans have been moving exotic animals around for a very long time, giant snakes are not an acception. Onesicritus, a lieutenant in Alexander the Greats campaign in India (352–327 BC), relayed stories of the Indian king Abisarus keeping pet snakes that were 120 and 210 feet long. While others with Alexander the Great’s army (Nearchus and Arisobulus) reported seeing Indian snakes that were a more believable 24 and 13.5 feet long (see the Giant Constricting Snakes web site). Pythons have also been imported into the USA for at least the last century for carnivals, zoos, and of course the pet trade. As more people and institutions kept giant snakes escapes and releases were invetiable. Virtually any animal kept as a pet, capable of surviveing in its new geography is likely to become established as a feral population. Thus, it should not be a surprise that giant snakes have become established in Florida, and become the cane toads of the snake world. Google "snakes" virtually any day of any week and there will likely be an escaped python story reported from some place in the developed world.

Michael E. Dorcas and John D. Willson have produced a book that will be of interest to all of those interested in snakes, particularly giant snakes or invasive species, Invasive Pythons in the United States, Ecology of an Introduced Predator.The book is well written and documented, the photographs are excellent, and the overall approach to the problem of invasive pythons are sound.There is an excellent discussion of the climate matching studies that have received considerable criticism as well as the risk humans face from the giant snakes - it is really quite minimal.

A new climate study released this week confirms global warming/climate is real, despite issues raised by climate change skeptics. The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study foud reliable evidence of a rise in the average world land temperature of approximately 1°C since the mid-1950s. Will invasive pythons adapt and spread to other areas of the USA over the next century? This seems highly probable, but don't expect them to be in New York, Chicago, or Los Angles soon.

Michael E. Dorcas and John D. Willson 2011. Invasive Pythons in the United States, Ecology of an Introduced Predator. A Wormsloe Foundation Nature Book, The University of Georgia Press. 176 pp. 188 color photos, 8 maps, 1 table, 7 figures.

Monday, October 10, 2011

147 Years of Invasive Herps

Living in the Chicago suburbs, between a metropolitan concrete desert and a vast agroecosystems, you don't expect to find an exotic herpetofauna. However, over the years people have brought me a variety of released pets. The occasional boa or iguana is to be expected, but perhaps the most unusual was an acquaintance that pulled his pickup into my driveway and said, "...are there lizards in Illinois," of course I replied in the affirmative. He removed a shovel from the back of the truck, on the blade was a very large, road killed Tokay Gecko. He had found the lizard on a road that runs through miles of cornfield, and the nearest human dwelling was at least a mile away.

In a recently published paper Kenneth Krysto and colleagues confirm three intercepted and 137 introduced amphibian and reptile taxa that have been found in the state of Florida. Remarkably only two (1.34%) were the result of biological controls, four (2.68%) came from zoo escapes; 18 (12.08%) came from cargo; and totally unsurprising, 125 (83.89%) came courtesy of the pet trade.

Florida holds the record for having the largest (56 taxa) established non-indigenous herpetofauna in world, Hawaii is a distant second (31 taxa).The origins of the non-native species spanning span the globe, and includes species from Australia, Oceania and Indonesia, Asia, the Mediterranean, Africa, Madagascar, South America, the Caribbean, as well as other states.

The literature suggests that about 10% of non-indigenous species that are transported to a new area actually become introduced, and 10% of those become established, and 10% of those become pests. This model was developed for British plants and animals, but exceptions to the rule are introduced birds in Hawaii, where more than half of the introduced species became established. The number (43 species) of non-indigenous lizards in Florida is spectacular, considering Florida has only 16 native lizards. This may be due to a combination of their popularity in the pet trade, but also the climate and microhabitats available in Florida.

This report is likely to have consequences for the pet trade and exotic animal business. It also raises the issue of ignoring non-native species or trying to do something about them. The flora and fauna at any given location is the result of co-evolved species, species that have adapted to each other over geological time. Humans have altered those communities in the blink of an eye, with little regard for the consequences. Ignorance is an enemy and released pets that become established can also become pests, and some are capable of causing serious damage to ecosystems. This paper makes for fascinating reading.

The African Clawed Frog was intentionally
introduced into Florida in 1964 by an animal
dealer. JCM
Krysko, K. L. et al. 2011. Verified non-indigenous amphibians and reptiles in Florida from 1863 through 2010: Outlining the invasion process and identifying invasion pathways and stages. Zootaxa 3028: 1–64.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Reptiles Where They Don't Belong

The Northern Curly Tailed Lizard,  Leiocephalus carinatus armouri
is endemic to the the Little Bahama Bank. In the 1940's about 20 pairs
were intentionally introduced into Palm Beach. It now inhabits much of
Florida's Atlantic Coast.   Photo JCM
The most popular posting on Serpent ResearchAn Attempt to Reduce Invasive Predators in the Florida Keys, has had almost 2000 visitors, about 5% of the total traffic to this blog. Why this post should attract so much attention is somewhat of a mystery, the next most popular post is Amphibians Prey for Epomis Beetles  has received only 20% of the attention the Invasive Predator has seen. So here is another note on a similar topic.

By moving species around humans are homogenizing the flora and fauna. One place becomes more like every other place on the planet. Introduced species create a loss of local biodiversity and local natural history. Two recent articles in Current Zoology emphasize the problems invasive species create..

Witman and Fuller (2011) report 1,065 vertebrate species have been introduced into the United States and its territories (86 mammalian, 127 birds, 179 reptiles & amphibian, 673 fish species). They note that In the United States, there have been some successes in invasive species management and eradication both on the mainland and islands and note we are becoming more knowledgeable and pro-active in responding to invasive vertebrate species. But invasions continue.

Florida is overrun with introduced species and Engemen et al. (2011) consider Florida's reptile fauna to be dysfunctional. Florida's climate is favorable for many amphibians and reptiles species from around the world and exotic snakes, lizards, turtles, and crocodilians are all breeding in Florida. They write, "Waves of exotic lizards have swept across much of the state, only to be joined or supplanted by subsequent lizard species..." The largest snake in Florida is no longer the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake or the Eastern Indigo. The state is now inhabited by the world's largest constrictors. The general public is unaware of most of the invasive species; the large constrictors are the exception. Florida now has three times more non-native lizard species breeding in the state than the native species. Many of the invasive lizards feed on the native lizards and at the same time compete for food and space.

They discuss five examples in some detail: Argentine Black and White Tegus, Burmese Pythons, Green Iguanas, Spiny-tailed Iguanas, Nile Monitors, and Northern Curlytail Lizards.

Invasive exotic reptiles in Florida are severe problem for native species, and the authors suggest that diversity of invasives in the state merit eradication, or at least control; pointing out that prevention is the most efficient and economical means to deal with invasive species. But, it is too late for those already there. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Scientists find that non-native snakes are taking a toll on native birds

The Everglades National Park in Florida is home to hundreds of species of native wildlife. It has also become the well-established home of the non-native Burmese python—known to be a predator of native species. Now scientists, for the first time, have conducted a detailed analysis of the avian component of the python's diet and the negative impact the snakes may have on Florida's native birds, including some endangered species.

The Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus), native to Southeast Asia, was first recorded in the Everglades in 1979—thought to be escaped or discarded pets. Their numbers have since grown, with an estimated breeding population in Florida in the tens of thousands. As researchers investigate the impact of this snake in the Everglades, scientists from the Smithsonian Institution, South Florida Natural Resources Center and the University of Florida examined the snake's predation of the area's birds. They found that birds, including endangered species, accounted for 25 percent of the python's diet in the Everglades.

"These invasive Burmese pythons are particularly hazardous to native bird populations in North America because the birds didn't evolve with this large reptile as a predator," said Carla Dove, ornithologist at the Smithsonian's Feather Identification Lab in the National Museum of Natural History. "Conversely, the python is able to thrive here partly because it has no natural predator to keep its numbers in check."

The scientists collected 343 Burmese pythons in Everglades National Park as part of their study between 2003 and 2008. Eighty-five of these snakes had bird remains in their intestinal tract. From these remains the team identified 25 species of birds by comparing feathers and bone fragments with specimens in the Smithsonian's collection. The results reflected a wide variety of species, from the 5-inch-long house wren to the 4-foot-long great blue heron. Four of the species identified (snowy egret, little blue heron, white ibis and limpkin) are listed as "species of special concern" by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The team also identified the remains of a wood stork, which is a federally endangered species.

"These pythons can also inhabit a wide variety of habitats, so their impact is not restricted to just the native species within the Everglades," Dove said. "The python's high reproductive rate, longevity, ability to consume large prey and consumption of bird species are causes for serious conservation and control measures."

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Second Species of Exotic Chameleon Established in Florida

Oustalet's Chameleon, Furcifer oustaleti, a species endemic to Madagascar is now known to be the second chamaeleonid to be introduced into the state of Florida. The Veiled Chameleon, Chamaeleo calyptratus , is the other species established in Florida. Furcifer oustaleti is one of the largest species of chameleons, reaching 0.685 m. However, another Madagascar endemic, Calumma parsonii may be the same size or larger. Another introduced population of F. oustaleti may is suspected to exist in the vicinity of Nairobi, Kenya. The Florida  population was started by an animal dealer in Dade County, Florida sometime prior to December of 2000. The extant population inhabits an avocado grove, contains both sexes, as well as gravid females, and has been able to survive the cold snap of 2010. The article is available on line from the Center of North American Herpetology.
Gillette, C. R., K. L . Krysko, J. A. Wasilewski, G. N. Kieckhefer III, E. F. Metzger III, M. R. Rochford, D. Cueva, and D. C. Smith. 2010. Oustalet’s Chameleon, Furcifer oustaleti (Mocquard 1894) (Chamaeleonidae), a Non-indigenous Species Newly Established in Florida. IRCF Reptiles & Amphibians. 17(4):248-249.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Gopher Tortoise Restoration

The Daytona Beach News-Journal is carrying the following story.
56 Gopher tortoises to get new digs
Volusia plans to improve food, habitat for critters
By DINAH VOYLES PULVER, Environment Writer

A sandy ridge near Barberville in northwestern Volusia County soon will get a new look in an effort to boost the area's population of protected gopher tortoises.

It's part of a long-term, statewide plan by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to create better places for the tortoises -- and related species that share their homes. The wildlife commission is doling out a limited amount of cash each year to local agencies willing to do land restoration.

The Volusia project will take place in the sprawling Heart Island Conservation Area, 14, 246 acres east of Barberville on either side of State Road 40. The St. Johns River Water Management District plans to perform the work on 227 acres of a parcel it owns jointly with Volusia County.

Before acquisition, the land was used for trophy game hunting, and oaks were planted to produce acorns, said Ed Garland, a district spokesman.

The district plans to put in fire lanes to burn the land with prescribed fire on a regular basis and will apply herbicide in the spring to treat the oaks that create too much shade, Garland said.

The Volusia County Council approved the plan last week.

Burning and reducing the oaks will create more sandy areas and increase food available for the tortoises, said Deborah Burr, gopher tortoise plan coordinator for the wildlife commission. A survey last fall found an estimated two adult tortoises per acre on the land.

Like many Florida plants and animals, tortoises need fire to prevent undergrowth from getting so thick that it's difficult for them to crawl, find food and build burrows.

"Fire plays a huge role in their life cycle," Burr said, "and is a huge part of the plan to sustain the species."

Experts say projects that improve tortoise habitat also benefit as many as 300 additional species of animals and insects that share tortoise burrows.

The wildlife commission adopted a tortoise management plan in 2007, listing goals for protection and restoring habitat. Burr said the lack of good quality habitat is one reason why tortoises declined statewide.

The tortoises were used by old-timers for food before the state banned their harvest in 1988. Their status on the state's protected species list was upgraded to threatened in 2006.

In 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the tortoise might warrant placement on the federal protected species list, but a spokesman for the service said Wednesday the issue is still under review.

The statewide population was estimated at about 750,000 in 2007, when the wildlife commission said it would no longer allow tortoises to be buried alive during construction and would instead require them to be relocated.

However, hundreds of permits already had been issued for tortoise destruction and many are still outstanding.

The wildlife commission estimated as many as 94,000 tortoises may have been buried on construction sites between 1991 and 2007. Developers with the old permits can choose to voluntarily relocate gopher tortoises, and wildlife commission officials have said they encourage the permit holders to relocate.

The money for the Heart Island restoration, $13,168, will come from cash paid by developers as mitigation for destroying gopher tortoise burrows.

This year, the wildlife commission is spending about $135,000 on 12 projects, Burr said. Last year, it distributed about $119,000.

The wildlife commission collects proposals from local governments and then prioritizes them based on the cost per acre price of the work, Burr said.

The wildlife commission is looking for the "biggest bang for its buck," she said. "We're looking for management of the most amount of land for the least amount of money possible."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Florida Burmese Pythons are Regulating Egg Temperatures

The first report of a female Burmese Python using shivering thermogenesis in the wild has been described by Snow et al. (2010). The researchers placed data loggers in and around the brooding female python and found the female snake both warmed and cooled her eggs by generating body heat and cooling them through insulation.

Snow, R. W. et al. 2010. Thermoregulation by a brooding Burmese Python (Python molurus bivittaus) in Florida. Southeastern Naturalist 9(2):403-405.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Invasive Constrictor Hunt in Florida

A 22 February 2010, Miami Herald story by By Susan Cocking states that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will open a special hunting season targeting invasive constricting snakes on state lands in South Florida March 8 through April 17. A hunting license and a $26 management area permit are required to take the snakes and the invasive Nile Monitor Lizard. Hunters may use firearms but not remove the snakes alive. The harvest area includes the Everglades, Francis S. Taylor, Holey Land, and Rotenberger wildlife management areas. The harvest is timed to follow the close of small game season and enable hunters to target the reptiles during cooler months when they are out in the open and easier to spot.