This was another year of incredible animal stories, but there are several that stood out from the pack. These are the best animal stories published on Mother Nature Network this year.
'You are paddleboarding next to approximately 15 great white sharks'
A beautiful, sunny day in California in May was perfect for being out in the water — and a shiver of sharks agreed! 15 great white sharks were swimming close to the shore near a group of people on paddleboards.
The Orange County Sheriff's Department flew in a helicopter above the water, making announcements to warn people. "Be advised, State Parks is asking us to make an announcement to let you know that you are paddleboarding next to approximately 15 great white sharks," the announcer says. "They are advising you that you exit the water in a calm manner."
How 3 Indian snake catchers caught 14 Burmese pythons in 2 weeks in Florida
For years, Florida wildlife officials have struggled to tackle a growing problem in the Everglades: the invasive Burmese python, which devours mammals (like raccoons, opossum and rabbits) and out-competes native predators (such as alligators) in the process.
Every year, amateur snake hunters compete to see who can catch the most pythons. incredibly this year, two Irula tribesmen from India caught 14 pythons in just two weeks! That's a lot considering that in 2016 about 1,000 hunters caught 106 snakes total.
Eastern Indigo snake reintroduced into the wild
Here's another snake story out of Florida for you, but this time the snakes were released into the wild. The Eastern Indigo snake is different from most snakes because it actually eats other snakes! I guess that would make it a cannibal snake? Either way this snake is special for another reason.
They're an apex species, which means they sit at the top of the food chain, affecting how well the animals and plants below fare. But due to habitat loss and fragmentation, the last eastern indigo snake spotted in northern Florida was in 1982.
More Eastern Indigo snakes will be reintroduced into the wild over the next 10 years. “The eastern indigo snake has been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1978, and today’s release is an important milestone in our efforts toward recovering this important reptile,” said Cindy Dohner, regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in a release.
That's just the tip of the iceberg for amazing animals stories! For more, check out MNN's animals page any time of year!