Environment

Over 1,500 hunters help capture 50 pythons in FL

Feb 5, 2013

More than 1,500 participants of a monthlong python challenge have helped to capture 50 Burmese pythons in the Florida Everglades. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission updated the counts Tuesday for the "Python Challenge." The competition began Jan. 12 and ends Feb. 10.

George Guthro / R/V Weatherbird II

The University of South Florida and a trio of WUSF reporters are being honored for their work in response to the BP Gulf oil spill in 2010.

A team of USF researchers and officials, led by Dr. William Hogarth, are among the recipients of Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Tampa Bay's STEM Catalyst Collaborative Partnerships Award.

New York Times

The New York Times says global warming and sea level rise isn't just a threat in the future -- it was a fact in the past.

A new article says the amount of sea level rise could be much higher, and happen much faster, than previously believed. And if past changes are any clue, the sea levels could get pretty high:

In previous research, scientists have determined that when the earth warms by only a couple of degrees Fahrenheit, enough polar ice melts, over time, to raise the global sea level by about 25 to 30 feet. But in the coming century, the earth is expected to warm more than that, perhaps four or five degrees, because of human emissions of greenhouse gases.

Experts say the emissions that may make a huge increase of sea level inevitable are expected to occur in just the next few decades. They fear that because the world’s coasts are so densely settled, the rising oceans will lead to a humanitarian crisis lasting many hundreds of years.

This issue is critically important to the Tampa Bay region. Much of south Tampa, St. Petersburg and the Pinellas beaches would be flooded with just a few feet of sea level rise (see attached slideshow.)

It's the topic of a March event at Eckerd College: “Sea Level Rise in Florida: Mitigation, Adaptation or Retreat?”

Retirees flock to Florida — and the Sunshine State even has a retirement home for chimpanzees.

There, chimps live in small groups on a dozen man-made islands. Each 3-acre grassy island has palm trees and climbing structures, and is surrounded by a moat.

This is Save the Chimps, the world's biggest sanctuary for chimps formerly used in research experiments or the entertainment industry, or as pets. The chimps living here — 266 of them — range in age from 6 years old to over 50. And as sanctuary Director Jen Feuerstein drives around in a golf cart, she recognizes each one.

Steve Newborn / WUSF

In January, a group of wildlife conservationists camped at the southern tip of the Everglades, ready to take the first step in a thousand-mile journey up the central spine of Florida. And they did it for 100 days straight - through swamps, cattle pasture and subdivisions on the creeping edge of suburbia. Why would they do that? Their mission: publicizing the need to connect the state's disjointed natural areas into a continuous wildlife corridor - from the Everglades to Georgia.

Superstorm Sandy is what most people will remember from the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. But Sandy was just one of 10 hurricanes this year — a hurricane season that was both busy and strange.

Late summer is when the hurricane season usually gets busy. But Greg Jenkins, a professor of atmospheric science at Howard University, says this year was different.

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2013 will be "The Year of the Snake." I'm hopeful that in the United States it will become "The Year of the Chimpanzee."

U.S. Wood Storks May Not Be Endangered Anymore

Dec 18, 2012
wildlifeshoots

Wood stork populations in the southeast U.S. are making a comeback. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Commission announced today a proposal to change the bird's status from endangered to threatened.

The commission attributes large-scale restoration projects in Florida, and South and North Carolina to the birds recovery.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe says the wood stork's comeback is a sign of more healthy wetlands.  

Hundreds of letters and emails to the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge were clear: Don't kill the alligators. Opponents of a proposed public alligator hunt that would begin next year outnumbered supporters 407 to 84, with messages reaching the western Palm Beach County refuge from around the world. A Web petition against the proposal generated 2,975 signatures.

Octopi Attack Devastating Florida's Stone Crabs

Dec 14, 2012
St. Marks Stone Crab Festival / Natural North Florida

This year's traditional Florida stone crab Christmas dinner may cost you. The crab harvest is down by almost 80 percent - due to an onslaught of octopi.

A warm winter is bringing octopus closer to Florida's Gulf Coast, and the multi-limbed pillagers are eating up lots of Florida's stone crab.  

Hernando Beach Seafood Co. owner Kathy Birren says only one out of nine boats are able to harvest right now. Birren says if the Gulf doesn't cool down, the season could be ruined.

After Spill, Offshore Enforcement Remains Murky

Dec 14, 2012

Nearly three years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the government agency that oversees offshore energy development still uses an opaque and unwieldy enforcement process that appears to give companies more leverage than the regulators policing them.

Mote Marine Laboratory

A bottlenose dolphin was found dead Saturday in Venice Inlet and examined by Mote Marine Laboratory scientists, who report that it most likely died from swallowing fishing gear. This is the information provided by Mote Marine:

Pat Lynch SFWMD

Ever want to hunt down a really big snake, or lots of them? 

That's the goal of the Python Challenge 2013, put on by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and its partners. 

That's because these behemoth snakes are wreaking havoc on the Everglades ecosystem by swallowing up rabbits, deer, and even alligators.

FWC is recruiting everyday people and python permit holders to capture and kill Burmese pythons in a month-long effort.

Today the final three reports in an overview of the scientific community's response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is being released. One of the authors is University of South Florida biologist Steve Murawski, who was the chief scientist for the National Marine Fisheries Service during the disaster.

Mystery Monkey Has a Place to Call Home

Dec 3, 2012

The mystery monkey that wandered around Tampa Bay for years and was captured in late October finally has a new place to call home.

Cornelius, the rhesus macaque, will be living at Wild Things Zoo in Dade City.

After his capture, founder and president of Wildlife Rescue and Rehab in Seminole, Vernon Yates took care of the monkey until he could find him a home. Yates says it was better for Cornelius's mental well being to be with his own kind now at the zoo.

Courtesy of National Geographic

According to the National Park Service, South Florida is the only place where two native species of American crocodilians exist:  alligators and crocodiles.

Usually, we only hear about the alligators of the Everglades, perhaps when we see a picture of a python swallowing one up.

Fourteen years after the federal government acknowledged that Florida had a serious water pollution problem, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to impose new pollution rules to clean up the state's algae-choked waterways — but it may have created a new mess.

Busy Hurricane Season Not Unexpected

Nov 30, 2012
Sarah Curran / WUSF

Today marks the end of another busy hurricane season. It was more active than predicted, with 19 named storms and 10 hurricanes. But the weather outlook may not be as bad as it seems.

Bay News 9 Meteorologist Julie Marquez says there's so much attention paid to hurricane season now, that this year may have seemed worse than it really was.

"Any year during hurricane season there is going to be a threat if you live along the coast," she said.

It may sound like an oxymoron: a delicious local, winter tomato — especially if you happen to live in a cold climate.

But increasingly, farmers from West Virginia to Maine and through the Midwest are going indoors to produce tomatoes and other veggies in demand during the winter months. "There's a huge increase in greenhouse operations," Harry Klee of the University of Florida tells us.

There are several exotic snake species that have become a problem in the Everglades. But for wildlife managers, the biggest headache is the Burmese python.

Earlier this year, researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey captured the largest Burmese python yet in Everglades National Park. Three USGS staffers had to wrestle the snake out of a plastic crate to measure it. The snake was a 17-foot-7-inch female carrying 87 eggs.

Wildlife managers are working to get a handle on the problem of exotic snakes in South Florida; but the snakes have already made a big impact.

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