Recent conservation efforts in the Florida Everglades to save the American crocodile from the brink of extinction have been effective: good thing. Territorial crocodiles hanging out in Floridian's back yards, however: bad thing. The worst part? Once a crocodile is removed from its favorite haunt, it will travel tens, sometimes hundreds of miles to return, using the Earth's magnetic field as a guide. Now the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has turned to an interesting method of deterring the crocs' return once they have been relocated - taping magnets to the crocodiles' heads to screw up their sense of electric field direction.
What's my name? Who are you? Where are you taking me?
The "magnet" method was first publicized by Mexico's Crocodile Museum in Chiapas (Museo de los Monstruos Reptillianos Gigantes y Atterradorissimos) as effective.
"We said, 'Hey, we might as well give this a try," Lindsey Hord, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's crocodile response coordinator, said to Reuters on Tuesday...Another solidly reasoned decision in Florida!
Either way the Mexican Crocodile Museum has reported success with relocation of over 20 crocodiles using the magnet method. Before everyone starts freaking out about whether or not this is a humane solution, it is important to note that they are simply taping on common laboratory magnets to the crocs' heads temporarily.
Hord explained to Reuters, "We just put the magnets on when they're captured and since they don't know where we take them, they're lost. The hope would be that they stay where we take them to."
Ok, are you calm now? Too bad! Because one of the two American crocs who underwent magneto-duct-tape-treatment was recently run over by a car and killed! The driver reported that she attempted to swerve around the reptile but her car was pulled toward it by some unseen force.***
Just to be fair, we think that the FFWCC should test this method on some elderly folks and see if they can find their way back to Golden Acres Retirement Home from the Cracker Barrel.
***Portions of this paragraph may not be "factual".
Thanks to Chris Cleveland, enterprise search guru extraordinaire.
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I wonder what would happen if two crocs with magnets were close to each other? Would they attract or repel? With the exception of the Golden Acres folks, is everyone too young to remember the little black and white scottie/westie dog magnets?
Would this also work on a crocodile that is not drawn back to a certain location, but rather attracted to a specific person?
And would it interfere with the clock?
Wow! I didn't even know there was any such thing as an American crocodile! My mom is so stupid!
Wait, do they only use the magnets for when the animals are in transit, or do they leave them on when they are released in their new location? Presumably they have to learn to navigate in their new locations.
God damn it... look, I just woke up with one of these things on my snout. Where am I and how the hell do I get back to Egypt from here?
I got tired of reading article after article that reported that the original Chiapan findings were reported in "a biology journal", so I'd like to note that they're in Vol 27, no. 3 of the Crocodile Specialist Group Newsletter - I'm mirroring it here (PDF, 1MB) because iucncsg.org seems low on bandwidth. (See page 5.)
It's especially fun because there's a table showing the results of the "magnetic treatment" on individual crocodiles back to 2004. One croc was relocated less than a mile away from its old haunt back in 2005, and still hasn't found her way back.
I do wonder, though, if knocking out the crocodiles with tranquilizers during transport would have the same effect. (Is tranquilizing less effective, less reliable, more expensive, more hazardous? I have no clue.)
Remember the old Gary Larson cartoon where an alligator gets out of a taxi, and the two alligators watching him from the swamp say, For crying out loud...It's Uncle Irwin from the city sewer!
What if the crocs wander into our cities and can't find their ways back to the wild?!