TAMPA BAY, Fla. -- For some time now, Floridians have heard about an invasion of Burmese Python in the state. An estimated 100,000 now call the Sunshine State home, squeezing the life out of native species and, in rare cases, humans.
A new program at Auburn University in Alabama is using trained dogs and their keen sense of smell to root out pythons in the Florida Everglades. Todd Steury, who helped run the experiment, says dogs can be much more effective than humans at finding reptiles, especially on drier, cooler days.
"If the humidity was low, the dogs were 10, 20 times better than humans at finding a snake," he said.
Using the dogs, researchers say they were able to spot 20 pythons. Nineteen of them were captured.
"One did get away, but the dog tracked it all the way where it was, and we -- the snake handlers -- were not quick enough to catch it. And so that was the only snake that got away from us," said Christina Romagosa with Auburn University.
The dogs were trained using the same methods used to train bomb-sniffing dogs. Auburn University says it's been in talks with Florida Wildlife officials to use one or two of them to hunt pythons on a regular basis. It's not cheap -- each specially-trained dog can cost around $25,000.