The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (“FFWC”) has been dealing with the problems caused by the Burmese python since the 1980s. Pet owners who suddenly discovered that their full-grown python was more than they could handle, started releasing them into the Everglades. A Burmese python can lay 50 to 100 eggs at once. They grow up to 23 feet long and weigh as much as 200 pounds. It is estimated that there are now tens of thousands of pythons slithering throughout the Everglades.
Late last year, Miami-Dade County Commissioner, Dennis Moss urged Congress and the state Legislature to provide more funding for the FFWC’s Python Removal Contractor Program. Since 2017, through this program, snake hunters have caught more than 1,900 Burmese pythons. While those efforts have helped, it’s not nearly enough to stop them from destroying that natural habitat of the Everglades. Already, panthers and alligators have very little natural prey left. Invasive animal biologist Michael Kirkland from the South Florida Water Management District (“SFWMD”), told the German newspaper Deutsche Welle“We have recorded a 99 percent reduction in fur-bearing animals… They are now preying on wading birds and even the occasional alligator.”
With most of the prey killed in Miami-Dade, Everglades National Park, and the surrounding areas, Kirkland expects the snakes to expand their territories both north and west. Without much effort, they can consume animals as large as a deer whole.
If that was not a big enough headache, researchers have recently discovered that some Burmese pythons are actually hybrids, as they have DNA that also includes the Indian rock python. Making pythons with this genetic trait even heartier.
By late 2018, the SFWMD had killed two miles worth of invasive snakes. Combined, they weighed more than 20,000 pounds. With 25 carefully chosen professional python hunters that make $8.50 an hour, plus $50 for any python measuring longer than four feet and other $25 for each foot over four feet. When a hunter eliminates an entire nest, that’s an extra $200.
It seems that the python-hunting program is making an impact, but more money is needed.
What does it take to become a, “Carefully chosen profession python hunter?”
You have to been 18
Have an iOS or Android phone
Agree to download and utilize the required GPS tracking software
A valid driver’s license
No felonies or wildlife-related offenses within the last five years
Agree to sign a waiver of liability
Agree to utilize an electronic data collection app
Have a bank account and agree to receive all payment by direct deposit
Agree to humanely euthanize pythons before transport
While a gun isn’t required, it’s highly recommended.