A pair of snake-hunting dogs are the latest to join the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s (FWC) effort to remove invasive Burmese Pythons from South Florida.
Burmese Pythons arrived in Florida when the exotic pet trade flourished in the 1980s. The reptiles were released into the wild in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew swept through the state destroying a python breeding facility in the Everglades. Today the Burmese Pythons are blamed for tipping the balance of South Florida’s ecosystem.
Exactly how many of the reptiles currently reside in South Florida is unknown, but the FWC and the Southwest Florida Water Management District have reported removing 6,278 Burmese Pythons since 2017.
This month, FWC announced that its Detector Dog Team is the agency’s latest tool in removing the snakes from the wild. Consisting of a black Labrador Retriever named Truman and a Point Setter named Eleanor, the dogs registered their first successful capture on Dec. 8 when they helped catch and remove an 8-foot male python in the Rocky Glades Public Small Game Hunting Area in Miami-Dade County.
According to Carli Segelson, of the FWC Division of Habitat and Species Conservation, the agency obtained Truman and Eleanor from kennels in North Carolina and Georgia respectively. Both dogs were trained by the J and K Canine Academy in Alachua County, Florida.
Trainers used python-scented towels and live snakes implanted with trackers to teach the dogs to smell out the snakes and follow the scent to within 3-feet of the reptile. After finding the snake the dogs alert their handlers, then back away from the area allowing FWC biologists to safely catch and remove the reptile.
The dogs go out five days a week with a handler and an FWC biologist to search for pythons on different public lands across South Florida, the FWC said.