Best Potential Hero - 2006
Giant scaly creatures from darkest Africa invade Miami! Fierce serpents plunder the Everglades, breeding and eating, eating and breeding, and then ... they slither into the city itself! Creepy crawlers lurk at every turn! Wildlife gone into their gaping maws! Pets perish to the ravenous reptiles! Children -- beware! What this place needs is a new superhero. And here he is, Python Pete, a beagle assigned to snake-sniffing duty at Everglades National Park. Over the years, irresponsible wannabe herpetologists (an idiotic group known as "herpies") have purchased small, young pythons, a particularly docile species. A two- to three-foot-long python survives on a mouse meal every week or two. And they grow. Soon they need to dine on rats, then rabbits ... and by the time they're five or six feet and have outgrown their original cages, the snakes become too much for their keepers, who simply release them in the Everglades. There the snakes have flourished, particularly in the southwestern sector, near Everglades City. Except for swamp dwellers and reptile collectors, nobody seemed to care much until recently, when large pythons were found in urban situations, munching on someone's cat and doing battle with an alligator. Taking a cue from customs workers in Guam, where Jack Russell terriers nose through cargo to find brown tree snakes, the National Park Service folks enlisted the aid of Petey, a ten-month-old beagle who is being trained by owner and wildlife technician Lori Oberhofer to be a "first responder." Oberhofer worked on the Guam project and believes young Pete can learn to locate pythons "and then bark." In the decade preceding 2003, 53 of the big snakes were captured by NPS officials. In 2004 they caught 61. If little Petey becomes successful, alligators and kitty cats will rest easy. Of course there is one fear: Nosey beagle consumed by giant serpent!