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Chelsea Van Thof Writing in Biology Giant Constrictor Infestation of Florida: Outreach and Education Many of the problems we face today are caused by a lack of understanding and misinformation. Unfortunately, even good intent can turn into something harmful when paired with ignorance. A current example of this is the growing population of giant constrictor snakes in the state of Florida, which is caused by incompetent and overwhelmed pet owners illegally releasing them into the wild. This occurs so often that some of these constrictor species have established breeding populations in southern Florida. The radiation of constrictors has created a slew of ecological issues that require citizens’ tax dollars to resolve, as well as endangering native species, pets, and people. Many avenues of prevention, including public education, are being explored in hopes of stopping further constrictor infestation. The prevention of the radiation of constrictors, like the Burmese python, has become the main focus of conservation efforts to preserve many native species of Florida. Burmese pythons are characterized by their ability to make use of a range of habitats, travel long distances, their generalist dietary requirements, long life expectancy, and high reproductive rate. Burmese hatchlings are larger than hatchlings of native species, making them less vulnerable to predators, as well. These aspects of their natural history are what have made the Burmese python a growing threat as a competitor and predator of indigenous wildlife of Florida (“WEC242/UW286: Burmese Pythons in South Florida: Scientific Support for Invasive Species Management”). Despite the Florida Keys being separated from the mainland by a series of creeks and canals, native species are fighting against the Burmese for their habitat on Key Largo. It is the only place in the world where one can find the federally endangered Chelsea Van Thof Writing in Biology Key Largo woodrat and Key Largo cotton mouse, both of which have fallen prey to the Burmese’s appetite. Since 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has attempted, with some success, to stop more pythons from reaching and establishing themselves on Key Largo by placing 60 traps throughout two reserves found on the island. ("Giant Constrictor Snakes in Florida: A Sizeable Research Challenge"). As an established invasive species, it may be more difficult to eradicate the Burmese python from Florida. The best course of action is not only the location and removal of as many of the species as possible, but also prevention of any further introduction of this species to the area. Grassroots efforts are a very effective avenue of invasive constrictor species eradication. The Everglades National Park, currently threatened by the Burmese in their attempt to restore the greater Everglades, insists that prevention begins at home. The citizens of southern Florida are the first line of defense against invasive constrictors, and it is important to be on watch for any nonnative flora or fauna. Reported observations from concerned citizens are what will allow wildlife agencies to veer away from expensive long-term management. The Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System, run by the Florida Invasive Species Partnership, runs, an invasive species reporting tool that allows anyone to submit a python sighting online. They have made reporting sightings even more convenient by offering an IveGot1 smartphone application (Everglades National Park - Burmese Pythons: How to Help (U.S. National Park Service)"). Almost four hundred submitted sightings by citizens have contributed to tracking and mapping the range of the Burmese python (“Burmese python (Python molurus) - EDDMapS Florida Distribution"). For citizens who want to take their Chelsea Van Thof Writing in Biology contribution to Burmese python eradication one step further, there are even more options. Permits may be obtained by both hunters and regular citizens for the removal/euthanasia of Burmese Pythons. State law requires that hunters possess a hunting license and wildlife management area permit when removing pythons from the Everglades and other WMAs, which can only be done during the established hunting season. Outside of the hunting season, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provides a permit allowing capture of pythons on certain properties managed by the South Florida Water Management District. Permit holders must have experience capturing and handling aggressive snakes and working in remote areas. Any conditional reptile captured may be humanely euthanized onsite or at a veterinary facility. Permit holders are also able to sell the hide and meat of their capture as a type of compensation. Permits are required for all python owners, and for the most part, are only available to dealers, exhibitors, and researchers ("Wildlife Licenses & Permitting"). Permits may be limited in d
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