The new South Florida Water Management District program to reduce the population of invasive Burmese pythons in the Everglades had at least one success story over the weekend.
Two python hunters nabbed a 15-foot snake that they said put up a “real fight.”
The two-month experimental hunting program began March 25.
Burmese pythons are at the top of the food chain in the Everglades, with no natural predators and eating their way north and south.
“They are ambush predators,” said Nick Aumen, senior science advisor for the southeast region of the U.S. Geological Survey. “They lay in wait for their prey, buried in vegetation. Any pythons that we can remove is good.”
Florida is trying myriad ways to reduce the python population, which is estimated to be in the tens of thousands.
Geneticists work in labs identifying python whereabouts by testing for their DNA in water samples.
Expert snake hunters from the Irula tribe in India were hired by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Services to search for snakes.
The FWC holds python-hunting contests where cash prizes are won based on quantity and length of snake.
When the water management district announced its program, more than 1,000 people applied to be part of it.
Omar Gomez was one of 25 people chosen. He caught a python Saturday and describes how in the video below.
The job pays $8.10 an hour, plus incentives starting at $50 for a 4-foot-long snake and $25 for each additional foot above that.
A snake found guarding a nest with eggs is worth an additional $100. The district set aside $175,000 for the program.
“A lot of people are just sick that they are here in the first place,” said water management district spokesman Randy Smith about people who applied to be hunters. “There’s not a lot of sympathy for the python.”