The Everglades are a unique 734 square mile ecosystem in southern Florida, popular as an outdoor adventure area for many tourists and locals alike. It is home to many indigenous species of remarkable plants and animals. In recent years, however, a creeping menace has invaded and populated the ‘Glades: Huge Burmese pythons!
One of the largest snakes in the world, Burmese pythons (Python bivittatus), are native to the marshes and jungles of Southeast Asia. Although not venomous, these constrictors are prodigious hunters and pose a threat to anything they can eat. They are an invasive species in several places across the globe, including South Florida.
How Did These Asian Serpents Make the Everglades Home?
Burmese pythons are not native to the Everglades, indeed, not native to all of the Americas. Today, there are as many as 100,000 Burmese pythons prowling the preserve, according to an article by Kim Wong-Shing. Recently, a 17-foot long Burmese python was captured in the Big Cypress National Preserve. This gigantic serpent weighed 140 pounds and was filled with 73 eggs!
They apparently began their colonization of south Florida in the 1980s. The likely initial cause: Pet owners who simply let their snakes go free. According to a CBS report, the population explosion of these giant snakes was likely exacerbated by the arrival of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. With its 150-mile–per–hour winds, this was a devastating storm. A number of exotic wildlife facilities were destroyed by the storm. One of the facilities housed a breeding facility for Burmese pythons. Thousands of snakes escaped, and the python population explosion commenced in earnest.
A Real Problem
These giant snakes are more than a nuisance. Most are not as long as the 17-footer, but at an average of 6-10 feet in length, they are quite formidable. After the python population explosion, the numbers of raccoons, possums, foxes, and rabbits dropped precipitously in the Everglades. According to Donna Kalil, a registered Everglades python hunter, these snakes can easily eat your pet cat or dog. Indeed, the biggest ones can swallow a deer or even a human. Other than hunters, the only real species that can take on a python is an alligator.
What’s Being Done to Control the Snakes?
The State of Florida is well aware of the situation and has taken some measures to curtail the python problem. In addition to paying registered snake hunters such as Kalil, the state has declared open season on the serpent. Florida residents can catch and kill as many as they can 365 days a year. As of mid-2008, some 1,000 of these snakes have been captured.
Nonetheless, so far the control efforts have been like a drop in a bucket. The Burmese python reproduces rapidly. According to the CBS piece, with the dwindling food supply in the Everglades, the python is expanding its range. In 2012, one was seen as far north as Georgia.
Fox News reports that Florida has just doubled its ranks of python hunters, with 25 new openings registered hunters. In addition to an hourly wage, bounties are being offered for sizable sakes as well as mother snakes guarding their nests of eggs.
Cat & Rescuer Become Globe Trotting Companions on This Adorable Instagram Page
There’s an interesting phenomenon in the animal kingdom which animal rescue people are known to talk about from time to time. It’s the fact that even wild animals, when in danger, trapped, or starving- will sometimes allow human rescuers to approach them and offer no resistance as the rescuers place straps and harnesses around the troubled creature.
Of course, anyone who has rescued an animal is likely to tell you that their furry beneficiary formed a fast and tight bond with them. Another interesting phenomenon is the fact than many animal rescuers report that their animals express gratitude toward them- as well as a high degree of trust- rarely found among animals of any kind.
This is especially true of cats and dogs who are particularly well adapted to be amenable to human beings. So when Mike Usher discovered an orphaned cat, trapped in the wall of his elderly uncle’s home- he promptly rescued the animal and began taking care of her.
Mike said, “I didn’t know how long she had been in there. My uncle had been in the hospital for a number of weeks, and Gracie- that’s what I’ve named her- was very thin and frail when she let me pull her out of the wall.”
Mike nursed Gracie back to health and she was at full strength in just a few days. After that, she would not leave her rescuer’s side for a moment- not even long enough for him to go to the bathroom. But this created a bit of a problem for Mike, who is a photojournalist and has to frequently travel for work.
He was getting ready to go out on assignment, but Gracie would not be content to stay at home. When Mike tried to leave she would mew furiously, and scratch at the door and windows. That’s when Mike decided to try an experiment. He went back inside, scooped her up, put her on his shoulder and began walking around the yard to test Gracie’s ability to trust him.
Before long, he was jogging under low trees and weaving between branches. All the while, Gracie clung to him, gently, without clawing his head or neck. That’s when Mike knew that he and Gracie were about to become a team.
Since then, the man and cat duo have been traveling the world, documenting Gracie’s travels as she braves everything the road throws at them. Their exploits are recorded on the Instagram page called Gracie Goes Adventuring. In this wildly popular photo/video log, the two explore beaches, woodlands, and even the waters together.
In the photos and short clips, we see Gracie get a bit nervous at times when Mike wades into the water with her on his shoulder. But it’s clear that she trusts her human implicitly, and follows him through thicket and brush, swimming, climbing, exploring and napping furiously.
While all cats crave adventure, few will experience the scope of sights, smells, and exotic napping locations that Gracie enjoys as a result of her alliance with her globe-trotting rescuer. They truly are a sight to behold.
4-Year-Old Girl Nurses Baby Squirrel Back to Health After Deforestation
Squirrels are one of nature’s most charming and amiable creatures. Despite their hilarious demeanors and their winsome mannerisms, most people regard them as nothing more than wild, rat-like creatures to be avoided. While they may not be tamable, once in a while, we hear a story that seems to confirm that even squirrels can appreciate warmth and kindness- especially when it comes from a child. They are, after all, mammals just like us.
This brings us to the story of Jessica Franklin, a four-year-old from South Carolina who was caught on camera playing mommy to a lost baby squirrel. According to folks from the neighborhood, a nearby grove was recently leveled in order to make way for a new shopping center that was going in. For several days, the animal inhabitants from the grove had been seen streaming across people’s yards, apparently in search of a new place to call home.
So it wouldn’t have been a surprise to find neighborhood children chasing the animals or watching them. But what did catch Jessica’s mother by surprise was to find her young daughter developing a very close bond with one of these little wild creatures.
In the viral video, the mother approaches Jessica from behind. The little girl is singing, facing a sun-drenched window, back to the camera. Then we peak over the little girl’s shoulder and find that she is gently cradling a baby squirrel in her hand. She stroked the little creature’s head and neck while singing what sounded like a country song to the animal. Jessica’s mother, not wanting to disturb the adorable scene, did not say anything or intervene.
According to the parents, Jessica later said that she had found the squirrel cold and alone in the morning behind their house in the back yard. She said she knew that it was too young to be away from its family and that it would not be able to find food on its own.
Jessica ran inside and retrieved some spinach and carrot pieces for the animal, coaxed it into her hands and immediately assumed the role of mother for the lost little thing.
Jessica’s parents chose to do the graceful thing and allowed their daughter to build a little shelter for the squirrel in their garage. This contained a bed, a food dish, and had a flap door that allowed the squirrel- which Jessica named Stuart- to escape the wind and cold.
Every day for two weeks, four-year-old Jessica dutifully fed Stuart. Before long the little tree squirrel became strong enough and confident enough to strike out on its own. Jessica’s parents had explained to her that squirrels are wild and that eventually Stuart would go looking for nuts and be free.
So on the morning Jessica found Stuart gone, she knew that it was because he was healthy and strong. Jessica’s mother said her daughter only cried a little bit and said she was glad Stuart was happy.
Devastating Hurricane Dorian Leaves a Young Pup Buried Under the Rubble
Storms are very scary things. They are loud, destructive, dangerous, and, sometimes, deadly. Hurricane Dorian- said to be the worst tropical storm to hit the Bahamas- is no exception. The Category 5 storm has ripped its way through many homes and lives. So far, there have been a minimum of 60 confirmed deaths.
Unfortunately, the number of missing people is an entirely different matter. People are not the only beings to go missing, though, due to storms. Pets often suffer as well. Can you imagine experiencing such devastation- possibly losing your home and belongings, maybe being separated from loved ones, and losing a beloved pet?
Thankfully, just as people have been dedicated to finding humans, others have been dedicated to finding pets. The Big Dog Ranch Rescue from Loxahatchee Groves in Florida has been working in concert with the Bahamas Humane Society, and has been specifically focused on locating and rescuing dogs.
At this time, at least 139 dogs have been rescued, transported, and given life saving care. While they could have stopped at such a large number, they went even farther. To make sure not one furry life was lost due to lack of effort, the Big Dog Ranch Rescue put new technology to work in the form of a drone.
This drone has the ability to penetrate the upper layers and see what lies underneath thanks to infrared detection, and that is exactly what it did. A month after the terrifying storm hit, the Big Dog Ranch Rescue was able to rescue a one year old pup that had been trapped under the heavy debris for all of that time.
Trapped underneath a collapsed building for such a long period of time would seem hopeless to most, but this brave pup clung to life with nothing but rainwater to drink. When rescuers saved him, he was unable to walk, but that did not keep his sweet tail from wagging joyously at the sight of his heroes. Just like the story told, he was named “Miracle” and is on his way to a full recovery. When he is fully recuperated, he will be eligible for adoption.
Rescuing both human and four-legged survivors is important, and those dedicated souls continuously working to do so are well worth the admiration. Though you may be unable to physical assist in any search or recovery, you may consider donating resources to these causes. Survivors- whether human or animal- need assistance and supplies, so if you can spare anything, even small amounts can make a difference. The shelters housing survivors can always use
Additionally, bear in mind that these rescued dogs and other animals will be looking for loving homes. If you or someone you know feel you can provide such a home, reach out to the Big Dog Ranch Rescue about how you might go about adopting one.
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