MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Wildlife specialists are demonstrating local Florida residents the technique to hunt and capture invasive Burmese pythons, as the big snake has become a headache for the U.S. state and other wild and even rare animals in the state.
Sometimes there’s prize money at stake and other times, like this one, is just a public awareness session before any official capture campaign is waged.
The Florida authorities have spent millions of dollars over the past 10 years to try to control the population of the invasive species from Southeast Asia. But since its first spotting in the 1980s in the Everglades National Park, the population of Burmese pythons has grown to an estimated total of between 150,000 and 300,000.
Florida held its first public python hunt in 2013. Some 1,600 participants caught and removed 68 pythons from the Everglades swamp ecosystem.
With even an estimated population of that large, more members of the public are expected to join in the hunt.
“The population is so large and the area is so vast where these snakes are populating. We need the public’s help,” said Carol Lyn Parrish, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which organized the 2013 public python hunt.
A two-month program of technique demonstration earlier this year enlisted and involved public participation in capturing 158 pythons so far. Yet the number of python sightings averaged over 300 annual sightings between 2008 and 2010 alone. And the U.S. Department of the Interior banned the importation of Burmese pythons in January 2012.
“Once they leave this program, they’ll be going out, and they’ll be trying to find these snakes in remote areas. We want to make sure they know how to safely capture the snake,” Parrish said.
While most of these would-be snake hunters are in it for the thrill of getting the pythons curling around their arms and even bodies, some may apply to do it as profit-making contractors to make a fame as well as fortune.
“I had seen several of them hiking out on the Everglades or driving down the road and seeing a dead one. But that first capture was very exciting,” said Anne Gordon Vega, a trainee snake hunter.