MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The hunters tasked with eliminating the python problem in the Everglades have hit a major milestone.
The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) announced on Thursday a total of 500 Burmese pythons have been killed.
“The speed with which hunters are finding and eliminating these destructive snakes showcases not only their dedication to the effort, but also the enormity of this invasive predator problem in the Everglades,” said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Dan O’Keefe. “Every one of these 500 snakes killed helps ensure the lives of hundreds of native species essential to the Everglades ecosystem.”
Jason Leon, one of the 25 specially-selected hunters, caught and killed the 500th snake at around 5 a.m. Thursday.
Earlier this month, Leon also caught one of the largest snakes, measuring in at 14 feet and 9 inches.
Dustin “Wildman” Crum captured and killed the largest snake this season. It was 16 feet and 10 inches, weighing in at 130 pounds.
Michael Valcarce has the most kills, with 52 pythons eliminated.
In total, the snakes killed through the SFWMD’s Python Elimination Program would stretch more than 3,300 feet in length and weigh in at more than three tons.
The hunters earn minimum wage plus a bounty for every python they capture. The bigger the snake, the bigger the check.
In the example below, an 8-foot python would pay out $150.
They earn an additional $100 for each eliminated python found guarding “nests” with eggs.
SFWMD started the elimination program because the invasive Burmese python is decimating native populations of wildlife.