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HerpDigest.org Newsletter
HerpDigest Volume # 23 Issue #24 5/19/20
FREE NEWSLETTER COVERING THE LATEST NEWS ON REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS
_________________________________________
HERPDIGEST IS A NON-PROFIT 501 C 3 CORPORATION- Is supported by your donations. Publication in HerpDigest does not reflect an endorsement of what is said or implied in said article. HD’s mission is to try to supply the herp community with relevant, interesting information on the conservation, science and different cultural attitudes toward herps around the world.
______________________________________________________
TABLE OF CONTENTS:

1. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History's (CMNH) Section of Amphibians and Reptiles invites proposals for a post-doctoral researcher.

2) Twenty-Three rare Royal Turtles hatch in natural habitat in SW Cambodia

3) These Large Carnivorous Lizards Are Right Where They Belong
Monitor lizards, believed to be invasive species on some Pacific islands, got there long before humans, a new study says.

4) With the World on Pause, Salamanders Own the Road—Traffic is down, thanks to the pandemic. That’s good news for amphibians looking to migrate safely.

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1) The Carnegie Museum of Natural History's (CMNH) Section of Amphibians and Reptiles invites proposals for a post-doctoral researcher. The successful applicant will work with the Curator on a combination of collections-based research and field work, with some potential for molecular work.

Carnegie Museums of Natural History, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, is among the top natural history museums in the country. It maintains, preserves, and interprets an extraordinary collection of artifacts, objects, and scientific specimens used to broaden understanding of evolution, conservation, and biodiversity. Carnegie Museum of Natural History generates new scientific knowledge, advances science literacy, and inspires visitors of all ages to become passionate about science, nature, and world cultures. Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh is interested in candidates who, through their experience and collaborations, will contribute to diversity and excellence of the Carnegie Museums community.

The successful applicant will both contribute to existing projects and work together with the curator (Jennifer A Sheridan) to develop additional research projects. Research funds will support local (Pennsylvania) field work, but funding for molecular work is limited, so applicants should focus on field projects and collections-based research. Two existing projects that the applicant will lead are detailed below. In addition, the successful applicant should include in their cover letter ideas for using the museum collections to address questions of climate change or land use change (impacts of climate on morphology, distribution, or diet, for example).

EXISTING FIELD PROJECTS
1. Pitfall trapping amphibians and reptiles at CMNHâÃÂÃÂs Powdermill Research Station. This project aims to compare current abundance and diversity with similar data from the mid-1980s, to assess the impact of fine-scale land use change and forest cover, using complementary GIS data. Applicants should have experience with pitfall trapping or similar methods, as well as handling, identifying, and preserving amphibians and reptiles. Experience using GIS to assess changes in land use and forest cover would be advantageous.

2. Physiology and microbiome of amphibians and reptiles in urban and rural areas. This project aims to determine intra-specific differences in thermal tolerance of amphibians and reptiles that occur in both urban and rural areas in Pennsylvania, and will include collecting of microbiome samples for later analyses. Ideal candidates will have some knowledge of testing thermal tolerance of herps, but a keen interest and ability to learn relevant techniques independently will also be considered.

The section of amphibians and reptiles currently has a diverse array of student volunteers from three area universities, and the post-doc is expected to be a constructive member of the team and mentor students as appropriate. As this is a museum-based post-doc, involvement in citizen science programs or other outreach related to the chosen project is encouraged.

Appointment is available for 16 to 17 months, depending on exact start date. If desired, candidate and curator can work together to secure additional funding to extend the tenure of this position. Salary is commensurate with experience and includes benefits and employee health insurance. Start date is expected to be mid-June 2020, pending successful background check of the selected candidate. Pittsburgh is a vibrant city with numerous unique and affordable neighborhoods, an excellent fine arts scene, and a burgeoning international food scene.

Please provide a CV with contact information for three academic references, and a cover letter (up to 2 pages) addressing your interest in this position and detailing potential additional research project ideas based on CMNH's collections.

Application materials should be compiled into a single document (word or pdf) and uploaded to the museum's website (the portal does not allow for multiple documents to be uploaded). Applications may be uploaded here:
https://usr57.dayforcehcm.com/CandidateP.../View/2392

Review of applications will begin 18 May and short-listed candidates will be contacted for a skype or zoom interview shortly thereafter.


EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE
-PhD in Ecology, Conservation Biology, Evolutionary Biology, or related field
-Demonstrable knowledge of amphibian and reptile ecology
-Record of peer-reviewed publications, including lead-author papers in research relevant to the position

KNOWLEDGE SKILLS AND ABILITIES
-Demonstrable knowledge of amphibian and reptile ecology

-Applicants should have experience with pitfall trapping or similar methods, as well as handling, identifying, and preserving amphibians & reptiles. Experience using GIS to assess changes in land use and forest cover would be advantageous.

• Ideal candidates will have some knowledge of testing thermal tolerance of herps, but a keen interest and ability to learn relevant techniques independently will also be considered.

PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS:
This position requires significant amounts of field work during the herp season (March-October), with extended periods of time spent camping or at field stations, often in isolation. Successful candidate must be willing and able to meet the physical demands of the projects outlined above, including digging, hauling equipment, equipment maintenance and repair, hiking, and other activities traditionally associated with field work.

ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS AND ACCOUNTABILITIES
The principal responsibilities of the postdoctoral researcher include executing the field projects outlined above, applying for relevant research permits, managing field data, maintaining effective communication on progress with the curator, mentoring students as appropriate, and producing peer-reviewed publications in collaboration with the curator.

The following PA Act 153 clearances, or proof of application of clearances, are required beginning employment and as a condition of continued employment:

Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance
Pennsylvania State Police Criminal Record Check
FBI Fingerprint Criminal Background Check
Obtaining the required clearances is completed as part of the new hire process.

TO APPLY PLEASE SEE HERE: https://usr57.dayforcehcm.com/CandidateP.../View/2392 />


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2) Twenty-Three rare Royal Turtles hatch in natural habitat in SW Cambodia
Source: Xinhua| 2020-05-19 18:15:16|Editor: huaxia




Photo released by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) on May 19, 2020 shows a conservationist measuring the length of a newly-hatched Royal Turtle in Koh Kong province, Cambodia. Twenty-three Cambodia's nearly-extinct Royal Turtles have hatched from their nests in the Sre Ambel River in southwest Koh Kong province this year, a conservationist group said on Tuesday. (Wildlife Conservation Society/Handout via Xinhua)

PHNOM PENH, May 19 (Xinhua) -- Twenty-three Cambodia's nearly-extinct Royal Turtles have hatched from their nests in the Sre Ambel River in southwest Koh Kong province this year, a conservationist group said on Tuesday.

The number of the species hatchlings this year was more than the total number hatched in the previous three years combined, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in Cambodia said in a press statement.
The 23 hatchlings were from three Royal Turtle nests, found and protected by a community nest protection team on two sand beaches along the river, the statement said, adding that among the total of 51 eggs, 23 eggs hatched and it is not known why the other eggs failed.

WCS attributed this success to conservation efforts by the local community, the ban on sand dredging along the river and the inclusion of the river as a fisheries management and conservation area for Royal Turtle and Siamese Crocodile, it said.

"This increase in the number of hatchlings shows that conservationists, working with local communities and government partners, can achieve measurable conservation successes," Ken Sereyrotha, WCS country program director said.

"With ongoing support and cooperation, we are hopeful that the number of Royal Turtles will continue to increase in the coming years," he added.

The Royal Turtle, also known as Southern River Terrapin (Batagur affinis), is one of the world's 25 most threatened freshwater turtles and tortoises, the statement said, adding that it is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as critically endangered and was designated as Cambodia's National Reptile by a Royal Decree issued in 2005.

Ouk Vibol, director of Fisheries Conservation Department of the Fisheries Administration, said he was really happy that the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries issued an edict last year to ban all fishing and sand dredging activities along the river.

"The Fisheries Administration actively worked with WCS to conserve Royal Turtles through habitat and beach protection, research and monitoring, nest protection program, establishment of fishery communities, and improvement of community's livelihood," he said.

The Royal Turtle was believed extinct in Cambodia until 2000 when a small population was rediscovered by the Fisheries Administration and WCS in the Sre Ambel River, the statement said, adding that after the discovery, WCS initiated a community-based nest protection program which employed former egg collectors to search for and protect nests, instead of harvesting them.
________________________________________________________
3) These Large Carnivorous Lizards Are Right Where They Belong
Monitor lizards, believed to be invasive species on some Pacific islands, got there long before humans, a new study says.



A young specimen of Varanus bennetti, a newly described species of monitor lizard on Losiep Island, Micronesia.
Photos Credit.-James Reardon
By Marion Renault
5/15/20 New York Times

You can’t accuse a monitor lizard of being a picky eater.

The carnivorous, fork-tongued reptiles feed on insects, spiders, bird eggs, mollusks, crabs, fish, amphibians and rodents — dead or alive. Deer represent a large portion of the diets of the Komodo dragon, the largest monitor lizard species, which is native to eastern Indonesia.

“They’ll feed at garbage piles and eat chicken bones. Whatever’s available,” said Fred Kraus, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Michigan. “They probably would take puppies too, if they get them.”

Monitor lizards have been found living on the most far-flung islands of Micronesia in the Pacific Ocean. For decades, people assumed humans dropped off these unfussy carnivores, turning them into especially threatening ecological invaders. But a study published Wednesday in Royal Society Open Science refutes this presumption, demonstrating that the monitor lizards of Palau, the Western Caroline Islands and the Mariana Islands are previously undescribed species native to those islands.

The team of scientists argues that the lizards likely rode ocean currents up to 1,500 miles in some cases, from Indonesia northeastward, where they naturally colonized these Pacific islands hundreds of thousands of years ago.

“Some of those islands are so remote. It’s pretty difficult to explain how they got there,” said Valter Weijola, a biologist at Finland’s University of Turku and lead author of the study. But his team’s research shows they made this ocean crossing without help from humans. And since their disembarkment, they’ve evolved into two distinct species.

Researchers examined more than 50 Micronesian monitor lizard specimens from museums around the world. First, they compared physical characteristics, measuring and noting details like body proportions, scale pattern and tongue color.

Then they ran molecular tests on tissue samples. DNA sequencing and analysis revealed two Micronesian species were genetically distinct from other known monitor lizards in the Asia-Pacific region. It also suggested each evolved in geographic and genetic isolation long before any humans arrived in Micronesia.

Used this way, DNA analysis can be a bit like looking at an ecological question through a microscope and a telescope simultaneously.

“It takes you back in time and allows you to see things in greater detail,” said Julie Lockwood, a Rutgers University ecologist and invasive species biologist who was not involved in the study.
__________________________________________________________
4) With the World on Pause, Salamanders Own the Road—Traffic is down, thanks to the pandemic. That’s good news for amphibians looking to migrate safely.

By Brandon Keim
Photographs by Greta Rybus
May 18, 2020, New York Times

Greg LeClair, who coordinates the Maine Amphibian Migration Monitoring project, helping to move a spotted salamander across a roadway.

Out they come on warm, wet spring nights, from beneath leaves and under logs and inside burrows where they have hibernated since fall: a veritable army of amphibians embarking on one of nature’s great migrations, albeit largely hidden from human sight and all too often ending beneath automobile tires.

It is an ignominious fate for creatures with life histories that read like fairy tales. And although nobody knows exactly how many frogs and salamanders are killed while crossing roads, scientists say that even moderate traffic at the wrong time can wipe out entire populations in a few years.
This year, however, amphibian migrations in the northeastern United States coincide with the Covid-19 pandemic. Social distancing and shelter-in-place orders have caused vehicular traffic to decline, turning this spring into an unintended, large-scale experiment.


“It’s really exciting to see what might come of this year,” said Greg LeClair, a graduate herpetology student at the University of Maine. He is the founder of Big Night Maine, a statewide network of citizen scientists who help amphibians cross roads and count them in the process. “It’s not too often that we get this opportunity to explore the true impacts that human activity can have on road-crossing amphibians,” Mr. LeClair said.


A wood frog crossing a roadway between two vernal pools.
Image

Mr. LeClair, a herpetology graduate student, coordinates a network of citizen scientists.



So far this spring, Mr. LeClair’s network has rescued 1,487 amphibians across Maine and found another 335 dead. That is roughly four living amphibians for every one run over, double last year’s two-to-one ratio.

On a night in early May, Mr. LeClair and his girlfriend, Samantha Grimaldi, patrolled a stretch of wooded road in the central Maine town of Unity. (They took turns carrying their 10-month-old daughter, Audrey, who was clad in a dinosaur-print face mask and a “Future Herpetologist” onesie.) On each side of the road was a vernal pool. Unknowing eyes might dismiss these ephemeral springtime ponds as large puddles, but they are founts of woodland life.

The air resonated with the trilling of spring peepers seeking mates; a pool may contain thousands. Two of these fingertip-size frogs were the first amphibians spotted on the road. Frozen solid on a forest floor just months earlier, they were now headed to a bacchanal. Mr. LeClair and Ms. Grimaldi set them by the pool.

Farther along on his journey was a wood frog, evidently returning home after mating. His mottled brown skin helped him hide on the forest floor but offered little camouflage on the tarmac. The round trip could easily span a quarter-mile — not much to a human pedestrian, but an epic journey for a ground-level, three-inch-long frog.

“Large animals who migrate a lot and are highly visible doing so tend to get some attention,” Robert Baldwin, a conservation biologist at Clemson University, said in an email. “But when you consider what a wood frog has to negotiate, it’s kind of mind-boggling. Nighttime and rain, giant logs to get around, sticks and leaves, snakes.”

When the distance of the frogs’ migration is calculated as a function of weight, as Dr. Baldwin has done, it is comparable to the trek undertaken by caribou between Arctic tundra and boreal forest. The frogs make documentary-darling wildebeest migrations look like weekend hikes.

Many pool-breeding amphibians cover equally dramatic distances, Dr. Baldwin said. The next road-crosser that night was a juvenile eastern newt, the length of a finger and luminously orange under headlamps. After losing their larval gills, the newts crawl to upland forests a half-mile or more away, returning years later as adults to aquatic life. The outbound sojourn alone can take a year.


Mr. LeClair inspecting a vernal pool for signs of migrating and mating amphibians.


Eggs of a spotted salamander in a culvert area.



Mr. LeClair and Samantha Grimaldi tending to their 10-month-old daughter, Audrey.

One study of salamanders in Massachusetts found that cars killed 17 percent of those migrating just 100 meters and 37 percent of those traveling 500 meters. To Mr. LeClair, each death is tragic, but his mind also turns to population consequences and lost ecological interactions.

This eastern newt, like many salamanders, will live on a forest floor, consuming minuscule leaf-eating invertebrates — a tiny niche, yet vast when considering that, in many forests, the total biomass of salamanders may eclipse that of birds and small mammals combined.

With the populations of detritivores regulated by salamanders, soils can be nourished by slowly decomposing leaves, making forests more resilient and slowing the release of carbon into the atmosphere.
Salamanders are also eaten by many other creatures, thus becoming conduits of energy and nutrients between pools and the surrounding forests.
“I like to think of the annual vernal pool cycle as a breathing cycle,” Mr. LeClair said. “It inhales water in the spring and exhales salamanders in the summer.”
Mr. LeClair found a pulverized wood frog identifiable only by its foot, and then, beside the road, an animal he had been looking for all night: a spotted salamander, about six inches long, purple-black with bright yellow spots, the charismatic megafauna of northeastern amphibians.

Apart from being beautiful, spotted salamanders are the world’s only photosynthetic vertebrate. Algae living inside the cells of larvae supply the animals with oxygen, a symbiosis that ends as the salamanders mature. Within two years they attain adult size, Mr. LeClair said, so this one was anywhere from 2 to 30 years old, potentially born years before him.

The salamander’s cheeks pumped as he rested in Mr. LeClair’s hand. This was another ancient trait, a form of breathing ancestrally derived from fish and suggesting an evolutionary lineage that traced directly to the earliest terrestrial vertebrates.

A juvenile eastern newt, in the bright orange “red eft” stage.
Image

Mr. LeClair documenting a frog fatality on the roadway.




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HerpDigest Volume # 23 Issue #25 5/29/20
FREE NEWSLETTER COVERING THE LATEST NEWS ON REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS
_________________________________________
HERPDIGEST IS A NON-PROFIT 501 C 3 CORPORATION- Is supported by your donations. Publication in HerpDigest does not reflect an endorsement of what is said or implied in said article. HD’s mission is to try to supply the herp community with relevant, interesting information on the conservation, science and different cultural attitudes toward herps around the world.
______________________________________________________
TABLE OF CONTENTS:

1) Sea turtles appear next to Rio airport thanks to fewer flights amid pandemic

2) Shock as a feral cat is found with 17 critically-endangered lizards inside its stomach

3) Iguana Species Hiding in Plain Sight is a New Specie No One Knows Not Until Now

4) Lawmakers fighting to control united Pests

5) What to do with a 20-foot python? Coronavirus puts the squeeze on unusual museum

6) Spring brings snapping turtle sightings

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1)Sea turtles appear next to Rio airport thanks to fewer flights amid pandemic

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) 5/28/20 by Sergio Queioz- Sea turtles have been spotted swimming amid garbage next to an airport in Brazil’s tourist hotspot of Rio de Janeiro, as the scream of jet engines that would normally keep them away has been largely silenced due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Animals are increasingly entering areas normally populated by humans, as people shelter indoors to contain the spread of the disease, from rare snow leopards sightings near a city in Kazakhstan to wild pigs roaming the streets in Israel.

A Reuters videographer spotted at least four turtles swimming not far from a runway at Rio’s Santos Dumont airport on Tuesday.

“(The quarantine) made it possible for these animals to appear in places where they are not normally seen,” said Mario Moscatelli, a Rio-based biologist and consultant for environmental recovery projects.

Moscatelli said it’s not unusual for sea turtles to enter the bay, but with fewer people, boats and planes taking off, they are now being seen in places they wouldn’t be normally.

Brazil’s air carriers have canceled more than 90% of their flights since the coronavirus lockdowns began. Usually one of Brazil’s five busiest airports and known for its stunning views of the Rio bay on arrival, Santos Dumont now has fewer than 15 departures per day.

But animals that venture into human areas are still at risk, as water next to the airport is filled with waste.

“These beautiful animals end up confusing plastic garbage with food. That can lead to death as the plastic material obstructs the digestive tract,” Moscatelli said.
_____________________________________
2) Shock as a feral cat is found with 17 critically-endangered lizards inside its stomach
• The cat was found by a ranger at the Kaitorete Spit in Canterbury in New Zealand

• On inspecting the cat's stomach content, the ranger found 17 dead lizards

• An estimated 200 feral cats are believed to be roaming around Kaitorete Spit

May 29, 2020 by Sahar Mourad for Daily Mail Australia
A feral cat trapped inside a spit was found with 17 dead lizards inside its stomach.

The cat was found by a ranger on the Kaitorete Spit in Canterbury in the South Island of New Zealand during a routine clean up.
On inspecting the cat's stomach content, the ranger found 17 highly endangered lizards.

The Department of Conservation refused to disclose the name of the lizard species in fear of reptile smugglers, Stuff reported.


On inspecting the cat's stomach content, the ranger found 17 lizards from a highly threatened species

The impact of roaming pet cats on Australian wildlife

An estimated 200 feral cats are believed to be roaming around the spit and are increasingly putting the lives of other endangered species at risk.

The lizards become more vulnerable in winter which sees them increasingly targeted by feral cats.

Southern grass lizards, another endangered species, are also common around around the Kaitorete Spit.

Threatened species ambassador Erica Wilkinson predicts a massive decline in the southern grass lizard population of up to 70 per cent within the next 10 years thanks to feral cats.
Endangered species such as birds, insects and plants are also at risk from the 200 feral cats.


A feral cat prowling around a banded dotterel nest on Kaitorete Spit
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3) Iguana Species Hiding in Plain Sight is a New Specie No One Knows Not Until Now
Erika P. May 28, 2020 Sciencetimes.com
• (Photo : Twitter) New iguana species found hiding in plain sight

• (Photo : Twitter) New iguana species found hiding in plain sight

• (Photo : Twitter) New iguana species found hiding in plain sight


For a long time, scientists have thought that the Eastern Caribbean iguana had just two species. These are the critically endangered Lesser Antillean iguana and the highly variable common green iguana. But recent investigative work has revealed that there are several "new" species of the iguana, Phys.org reports.

But calling them "new" is something a misnomer since these two-meter lizards have been lounging plain sight for as long as anyone could remember. Unscrupulous wildlife traders have long regarded them as distinctive island varieties.

For example, the Santa Lucia iguana sports a broad black bands, while another specie named Grenadines pink rhino iguana often turns pinkish white when it gets old.

Threatened with Extinction

Fauna & Flora International (FFI), Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, and the forestry departments of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and Saint Lucia joined forces with French taxonomists to investigate this further as they are not convinced that the resident lizards were merely aberrant forms of the green iguana.

Thanks to DNA sampling that spawned a scientific paper in which FF has contributed, both iguana species were formally recognized as endemic, threatened by extinction with its numbers down to less than a hundred. Without CITES permits from their respective country of origin, it is illegal to trade either of the two iguanas internationally.

The team is working on conserving these two lizards and also the Central American horned iguana, which are known to be invasive alien species on many islands in the region, as they breed rapidly hybridizing with the native lizards.

FFI and SV Forestry Department collected data and photographed the iguanas across St Vincent and the Grenadines to further analyze them. The results showed conclusively that the two iguanas are indeed new species.
This new species is named the Southern Antilles iguana, which has a cluster of horns on the nose, a high crest, and dark-brown eyes. FFI is already involved in conserving this newly recognized species, based on their ongoing efforts to safeguard two of its subspecies, the Saint Lucia iguana and Grenadines pink rhino iguana.

They All Look Almost the Same!

It is more complicated in identifying the new species because they are virtually indistinguishable from those of the native pure-bred Southern Antilles iguanas. All of the juvenile iguanas in the Eastern Caribbean are bright green, making it harder for conservationists and law enforcers to tell which species is which.

According to Pius Haynes, Head of Wildlife at the Saint Lucia Forestry Department and a co-author of one of the papers, Saint Lucia iguana is used to be called "Iyanola," which means the Land of the Iguanas. He also said that iguanas play an important role in forest regeneration through dispersing seeds.

The Director of the SVG Forestry Department, Fitzgerald Providence, emphasized the need to "work with conservation organizations such as FFI and the island communities and establishing legislation and policies to protect their islands' biological diversity.

Dr. Jenny Daltry, FFI Senior Conservation Biologist, and a fellow co-author said that "Caribbean iguanas are in grave danger because of invasive alien species habitat loss and over-hunting for bushmeat and the pet trade.”

Meanwhile, Redonda has also been confirmed as an entirely separate species, known as the melanistic or Saban black iguana.
___________________________________
4) Lawmakers fighting to control uninvited Pests
By Michael Salerno, Daily Sun Senior Writer

First observed in Florida in 1976, African redhead agamas were introduced to the state via the exotic pet trade. The agamas compete with the native green anole for food and habitat.
Charles J Sharp, Wikimedia Commons

Bad enough Florida has giant snakes that eat everything. But now, wildlife managers also are facing explosions of the African redhead agama, or “rainbow lizard,” first spotted in South Florida but also known to go as far north as Duval County. And the emergence this month of the Asian giant hornet, or “murder hornet,” out West became a national curiosity. It hasn’t hit Florida, but fear and hysteria over the “murder hornet” could threaten beneficial native insects. Florida is the most vulnerable state to invasive species threats, and the animals and plants that don’t belong continue to wreak expensive ecological havoc on the state. It costs at least $500 million annually for Florida to manage invasive species, according to a joint report from the National Park Service and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

That’s a large share of a high national cost — $127 billion per year for nationwide management efforts, according to a 2017 Congressional Research Service report.

And the problem persists despite all management efforts because warming temperatures are causing the species that establish here to migrate north, said Josh Grau, vice president of the environmental group Ending Non-Native Destructive Species

Taking action nationally

Fortunately, stopping invasive species in Florida is an issue gaining more national ground.

It now has the attention of Florida’s U.S. senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, who teamed up to introduce the SLITHER Act (SLITHER short for “Suppressing Looming Invasive Threats Harming Everglades Restoration”).

Their legislation, included in the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020, aims to combat significant threats to biodiversity in South Florida, including Burmese pythons and giant lizards like the Argentine tegus and Nile monitors.

“Even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Senate is taking important steps to protect and improve Florida’s ecosystems,” Rubio said in a statement.

Burmese pythons, native to Southeast Asia, are giant snakes known to compete with native predators for food and habitat, and eat many imperiled animals critical to the Everglades ecosystem, according to the Everglades Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area.

They can even eat large animals like alligators and deer.
It’s hard to hunt them down because of how they camouflage themselves within the grasses of the Everglades, and hard to manage their populations because a single female Burmese python may lay from 50 to 100 eggs at once, according to FWC.
“We’ve successfully fought to fund projects that preserve and protect our Everglades, but this progress is threatened by invasive species,” Scott said in a tweet.

The America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020, including the SLITHER Act, was referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. A hearing date for the legislation hasn’t been set yet.

The SLITHER Act isn’t the first time the issue of invasive species in the Everglades received national attention this year.
In January, FWC and the South Florida Water Management District co-organized a Burmese python hunt with the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee called the Python Bowl, which tied in with Miami’s hosting of the Super Bowl.

Hunters captured and removed 80 pythons during the 10-day challenge, according to FWC.

Battling emerging threats

Despite legislative actions and species removal challenges, it’s hard to keep up with established and up-and-coming invaders.
Recently, South Florida residents started noticing an explosion of African redhead agamas, also known as “rainbow lizards” because of their red-orange heads, dark blue bodies and multicolored tails.
Agamas aren’t new to Florida — FWC first observed them in 1976, introduced via the exotic pet trade — but their population growth is, said Grau, of ENNDS.

During a phone call with a Daily Sun reporter, Grau noticed five agamas roaming in his yard.

“We went from seeing one or two sporadically to, I have 20 or 30 that live in my yard all the time,” he said. “When we first started seeing them, we could manage them.”

Agama sightings were confirmed in 27 Florida counties, with the most reported in Martin, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, according to the Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System, a project of the University of Georgia that tracks invasive species nationwide.

Only two sightings occurred in the tri-county area, one in 2014 in Marion County and another in 2017 in Lake County, the data showed.

Grau thinks the agamas, as well as the giant, cold-resistant tegu lizards, are proliferating in greater numbers today because of warmer winters in recent years.

“We’re not getting the frosts that we would before,” he said.
The problem with African redhead agamas is that they compete with the native green anole for food and habitat, Grau said.
And green anole populations already are suffering because of competition from another invasive lizard, the Cuban brown anole, he said.

Jim Davis, director of the University of Florida’s Sumter County Extension Office, listed brown anoles as one of the invasive species Villagers may encounter in the tri-county area.
Other local threats include red imported fire ants, Africanized bees and feral hogs.

The displacement of native species is one of the reasons invasives damage Florida’s environment, Davis said.

“Some carry diseases,” he said. “They can eat anything, even each other. Look at feral hogs, they disturb the ground with all the digging they do, it looks bad and it could prevent the growth of native plants. It could introduce weeds, and fire ants love those.”
Not every nuisance animal Florida is tracking crawls on the ground.

Others fly and sting.

The Asian giant hornet, which was recently found in Washington state and gained national attention for its nickname “murder hornet,” are known to prey on honeybees at the entrances of their hives, according to Amy Vu and Jamie Ellis of UF’s Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory.

Up close, the hornet has a large orange-red and yellow head with prominent black eyes.

But it easily can be confused for other beneficial insects like the European hornet, cicada killer and baldface hornet, which are pollinator species and function as a biological control for nuisance species in the environment, Vu said.

“When you look at them up close, you can see the difference,” she said. “But when you see them outside, it’s a different story.”

Entomologists worry that people may misidentify beneficial insects as the “murder hornet” and kill them if they see them.
But they shouldn’t be a worry to Floridians at the moment, as Vu and Ellis stated they haven’t been found anywhere in the U.S. outside of Washington state.
___________________________________
5) What to do with a 20-foot python? Coronavirus puts the squeeze on unusual museum

Susan Nowicke, president of EcoVivarium, with a green iguana named Chance.(Don Boomer)

EcoVivarium was planning to move its 250 reptiles and amphibians into bigger quarters when the coronavirus hit. What now?
By JOHN WILKENS
MAY 29, 20206 AM
This was supposed to be a time of dreams coming true at the EcoVivarium, a living museum in Escondido that’s home to 250 snakes, lizards, turtles, crocodiles, frogs and spiders.

For a decade, museum President Susan Nowicke and her small staff did hands-on animal presentations at schools and fairs and hosted tours, birthday parties and other events at the museum to spark “awareness, understanding and respect” for reptiles and amphibians that are routinely feared and reviled.

They’d been successful enough to outgrow their 1,800 square-foot storefront on a downtown side street and eye a lease-purchase agreement for a 10,000 square-foot building on Grand Avenue, which would enable them to provide more space for the animals and offer more workshops and labs.

Earlier this year, they gave notice to the landlord that the nonprofit museum would leave its current space when the lease expired at the end of May. “The future looked so bright,” Nowicke said.

Then the novel coronavirus arrived, evaporating the museum’s revenue stream. In a period of two weeks, they lost bookings for 280 presentations, 10 assemblies and 15 birthday parties. They had to shutter the museum as a nonessential business.

“All that money, gone,” Nowicke said.

The animals, meanwhile, still have to be fed. So funds that had been set aide for the move went instead to food and other supplies, she said, and the deal for the new building fell through because they could no longer afford to rent it.

Cost is an issue in the existing storefront, too, she said, and with the five-year lease expiring Sunday, they are scrambling to figure out what to do with Bunny, a 20-foot python, Ana, a 100-pound anaconda, Mac, an 8-foot monitor lizard, and all the others — glass case after glass case after glass case of critters that slither and crawl and creep.

Nowicke said she’s in negotiations with another building owner downtown on a lease that would allow the museum to defer rent payments until it gets back on its feet. As a fallback, she said, there’s a small warehouse they might be able to use temporarily to house the animals while they continue to hunt for new museum space.

Or….

“When I started all this, I had the animals at home, about 90 of them,” Nowicke said. “I would be hard-pressed to be able to do that now, but if that’s what it comes down to, that’s what will have to happen.”
She sighed.

“When you’re dealing with animals,” she said, “there’s never a dull moment.”

Into their world

This started with earthworms.

As child, Nowicke caught them outside her home and dumped them on the kitchen table to watch them wiggle. Before too long she discovered something that liked to eat worms: frogs.

“And I was on my way,” she said.

She home-schooled a daughter with special needs who seemed to do better at science and other subjects if there was an animal involved. She got involved with and helped run the San Diego Herpetological Society, founded in 1978 to support collectors and breeders and educate the public about reptiles and amphibians.

In 2009, she created EcoVivarium and started taking animals into schools for presentations. The money she made kept the animals fed and allowed her to expand her collection. Six years later, she opened the living museum and educational center on Juniper Street.

Many of the animals there are “rescues,” donated by people who misunderstood what they were getting into when they bought them as pets. Some were discovered along the side of a road, or confiscated by authorities for health or legal reasons. Many are rare or endangered.
One of the turtles got orphaned after it upset its owner by eating $500 worth of koi babies in a pond. A green iguana was donated by a young man who found it in his grandmother’s garden as a boy, raised it through childhood, and then had to give it up when he went off to college.

In the museum, volunteers built display cases with windows recycled from a housing project. They were placed along a snake-like path to give visitors a sense of different habitats — desert, grassland, swamp.

One large enclosure had a glass dome in the middle of the floor where visitors could stick their heads up for a closer look. There was a tree near one door with shed snake skins dangling from the branches.

But the main attraction was the chance to touch and hold the animals. At birthday parties, the guest of honor sometimes got to walk Mac the monitor lizard around on a leash.

The museum’s motto is “Step into their world,” and Nowicke said visitors often leave with a greater understanding of the cultural, historical and ecological significance of the creatures.

And those who left often told their friends. That meant more visitors, more school assemblies, more presentations at fairs and festivals. And big plans for the future.
“Then the coronavirus just knocked the wind out of our sails,” Nowicke said.

COVID behavior

Like countless other institutions, the museum has moved some of its offerings online. There are bi-weekly animal encounters on Facebook, “Virtual Education Programs” on Zoom. Under the state’s guidelines, indoor museums have to wait until Stage 3 to reopen; San Diego County is now in Stage 2.

Nowicke said they’re using the downtime to assess their organizational structure and make improvements in how they’ll operate moving forward.

But the coronavirus has also brought them additional animals to care for. Some people who have lost their jobs can no longer afford exotic pets and are relinquishing them.

“In these troubling times, we don’t want to turn people away,” she said.

Several of the veteran “animal ambassadors” at the museum are showing signs of stress from the decreased interactions with humans. They’re acting out -- crushing overhead lights, splashing water from tanks, biting.

“It’s COVID behavior,” Nowicke said.

Early on, she furloughed her handful of staff members, but they come to work anyway. Some have dipped into their wallets to help pay for food.

“I’m optimistic we’ll get this all worked out and get back to letting people see these remarkable animals,” Nowicke said.

Then she added a comment that feels universal these days: “Right now, we’re under the gun.”
__________________________________________
6) Spring brings snapping turtle sightings

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Farm And Dairy News- May 28, 2020

May and June in Pennsylvania bring increased sightings of snapping turtles as these ancient reptiles leave their normal aquatic habitat to lay eggs on land. Since these turtles are abundant across the entire state, they are a common sight among pond owners.

These turtles are typically shy and prone to swim away from humans when they are in water, but they are often more aggressive when encountered on land during their spring egg laying. The combination of their scary, dinosaur-like appearance and their aggressive spring-time behavior often results in their untimely death by fearful pond owners.

While snapping turtles may not be welcome at many ponds, they do play an important role in the pond “clean-up crew” by scavenging dead and decaying organic debris and nuisance aquatic plants.

A better understanding of their role, life cycle, and feeding habits often results in a new-found respect and coexistence between “snappers” and pond owners and an overall healthier pond ecosystem.

Identification and life cycle

If you see a turtle swimming in your pond or resting on the bottom with its head above water, there is a good chance that it is a snapping turtle.

They are characterized by a long, toothed tail, large head and neck, and relatively small shell compared to other turtles. The head is dominated by a prominent curved jaw. Their especially long necks and jaws allow them to easily bite and catch prey, but it also makes them more difficult to catch and carry.

Large snappers often have algae growing on the top of their shell, especially in the mid to late summer.

Snapping turtles become more visible in May and June when they make a brief appearance on land to lay eggs. During their time on land, snapping turtles should be avoided if possible.

They are most uncomfortable and prone to aggression when they are out of water — even known to hiss loudly at any perceived threat.

If you must handle a snapping turtle (perhaps to move one from imminent danger on a road), the safest method to avoid a bite is to pick them up from their back legs. But be careful of their clawed feet which can be quite sharp, especially on larger turtles.

Females deposit a few dozen eggs in a shallow nest in loose soil or vegetation sometimes at quite a distance from the closest pond or stream. Their nesting success is often quite low because many eggs are ultimately lost to predators like skunks or other mammals.

Hatchlings appear in mid-summer, about two to three months after the eggs are laid.

Like most turtles, snapping turtles grow slowly but they do represent the largest turtle species in Pennsylvania often approaching 40 or 50 pounds in old age. Larger turtles are usually more than 20 years old with some approaching 50 years old.

Old snappers can be quite scary in appearance with a large, hooked jaw like the one pictured here.

Through the summer you are likely to see them swimming or floating in the pond or sitting quietly in shallow water on the pond bottom. Snapping turtles prefer ponds to streams, especially if the pond has lots of tasty aquatic plants and soft bottom sediments or “muck.”

They are more active at night but are commonly seen during the day. During the winter, snapping turtles hibernate under water, usually in the bottom sediment of ponds, lakes, or streams or under nearby vegetation or mud.

Villain, nuisance or just plain misunderstood? While some pond owners enjoy watching snapping turtles, many consider them a nuisance.

Penn State Extension surveys of pond owners over the past few decades have found that 42% complain of at least one nuisance wildlife species. The most common complaints are for Canada geese and muskrats with snapping turtles among the top five species.

Many pond owners fear snapping turtles, but only a handful in the Penn State surveys had any personal knowledge of a person being bitten by a snapping turtle.

In some cases, this fear may be perceived from the angry appearance of their large, curved jaws. In others, it may come from observing a snapping turtle catching and/or consuming fish or wildlife.

But many pond owners fail to understand the vital role that snappers play in the pond food web and ecosystem. They are opportunistic eaters with a varied diet that is dominated by aquatic plants but also includes dead or dying fish, organic debris, insects and small animals.

They are probably most notorious for their ability to catch and consume domestic or wild waterfowl like Canada geese although this is a minor part of their diet.

They will occasionally eat a healthy fish, but they are unlikely to have enough of a detrimental impact to the overall fishery to warrant the disdain give to them by some fishermen.
While snapping turtles will aggressively protect themselves on land where they are slow and more vulnerable, they tend to avoid humans while in the water, usually diving below the water surface for escape and cover of the bottom sediments and weeds.

Snapping turtle control

While snapping turtles are valued for their ability to keep ponds clean, there are many instances where pond owners seek to control their population.
Their relative abundance allows for liberal harvest regulations in Pennsylvania. Their meat is also sought after for snapper soup and is even commercially sold to some restaurants or other vendors.

Commercial sale of snapping turtle meat requires a Commercial Turtle Permit through the PA Fish and Boat Commission. Snapping turtle meat is considered tasty by many, but it is important to remove as much fat as possible.
The fat adds a very poor taste and is also more likely to accumulate pollutants from the turtle’s habitat. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission considers snapping turtle meat to be safe consume if fat and internal organs are removed.

In Pennsylvania, a fishing license is required to harvest snapping turtles. Up to 15 can be legally harvested daily between July 1 through Oct. 31.

Most pond owners use turtle hooks mandated as a hook that is at least 3.5 inches long with at least one inch between the tip and shank baited with various types of meat.

This hook design prevents other types of protected or endangered turtles from being mistakenly caught. Turtle hooks should be connected to heavy monofilament line or wire. Turtles can also be caught with setlines, turtle traps, or other devices but these must be tagged with contact information for the owner.

These devices must be designed to allow other species of turtles to escape or be released.

The specific requirements and regulations for harvesting snapping turtles are explained at the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website. While snapping turtles can look and act the part of a pond villain, consider the important role they play in the overall health of your pond or lake before you decide to remove them.

In ponds where they have become too abundant or interfere with other pond uses, be sure to follow state regulations when harvesting snapping turtles.

________________________________________________________


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