Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Roundup-Recent Articles and Blogs of Interest

There are often articles and blogs that catch my eye but I am unable to comment on or write about because I am either preoccupied with other things or I can't come up with enough material to justify an entire post. So, I'd like to periodically bring your attention to some recent articles that you all may find of interest. I would like to say that this will be a weekly feature, but I don't quite want to commit myself to that. Suffice it to say I will try.


1. Huge Python Found in Everglades After Feasting on Deer. As you may be aware, there is now an established population of Burmese Pythons living in South Florida, particularly in the Everglades region. This species is not native to the United States, they are from Asia. But, they were brought over here for the pet trade. How they became established in South Florida is anyone's guess, but the general consensus is that some of these snakes escaped, started breeding, and now they have become firmly entrenched. There is a lot of concern regarding what kind of effect these pythons may have on the native ecosystem, we know they certainly eat a lot of other animals (including deer, alligators, you name it). I spent a week assisting on a python project earlier this year and I hope to write about it soon.

2. Are Eastern Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes Endangered or Not? Recently a few organizations petitioned the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake under the Endangered Species Act. Although the process by which a species becomes federally protected following a petition can be complicated, it is summarized here. Basically, after receiving a petition the USFWS determines whether or not the petition has merit. If it does have merit, then the next phase begins: a year-long scientific review. If the science supports listing, this conclusion is then reviewed by experts and the public is allowed to comment. If the species clears all these hurdles, it is then federally listed. This takes a long time and it's not unusual to wait years for a final ruling. Sometimes the USFWS decides a species should qualify as federally threatened or endangered, but they are unable to make this official due to budgetary limitations. These species are then designated as Candidate Species (this is what happened recently to the Gopher Tortoise).

  Recently the USFWS updated its list of Candidate Species. Since the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is still very early in the petition/listing process, it was not yet at the stage when it would even be considered for inclusion on this list. Yet, some in south-Alabama started celebrating a little early. Since the Rattlesnake wasn't on the list of Candidate Species, this was interpreted to mean that the USFWS decided it wasn't rare. Well, this isn't how the system works. Fortunately, the newspaper in question subsequently printed a correction of sorts.

3. Monster Myth Origins. I know I am a little late for Halloween-themed articles. But Scientific American recently compiled a great list of monster and creature-related blog posts. I particularly enjoyed, "A Natural History of Vampires". How are these articles relevant to this blog? Well, a few of them discuss how a misunderstanding of biology and natural history (including human natural history), have led to some fascinating myths. This is not unlike what we have seen for some of our wildlife, such as the maligned and misunderstood Cottonmouth.


4. Finally, an Unusual Obituary. A celebrity snake-of-sorts passed on recently, and I stumbled across a fairly touching tribute. It's an animal we don't often see celebrated, a Cottonmouth. Not only are these animals incredibly unpopular among the general public, but this particular animal had actually killed someone. But, suffice it to say that the person that was killed had decided to engage in some very risky snake-human interactions.

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