HOMESTEAD (CBSMiami) — For the first time in its 70-year history, Everglades National Park is opening its border to paid hunters and these hunters will be going after those invasive Burmese pythons taking over the Everglades.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said Thursday that expanding its python hunt from state wetlands into the national park will help remove invasive species from the wild and advance python research.
Hunters will be paid by the state and the expansion could begin as early as July.
“We are excited to partner with FWC on invasive species management and are certain this partnership will increase python removals within our park,” said Everglades National Park Superintendent Pedro Ramos. “We worked hard in planning this expansion to ensure it won’t harm the park and its exceptional resources.”
The expansion triples the maximum number of participants in the park from 40 to 120.
They’ll use firearms or other humane methods to euthanize pythons in the wild and trained NPS personnel will also capture live pythons and turn them in for advance research in methods to control pythons.
Authorized hunters will be vetted by the Fish and Wildlife Commission and need to meet a handful of qualifications including proof that they’ve legally bagged at least three pythons. Hunters will also earn the same rate paid to district hunters: minimum wage plus $50 for every four-foot snake and $25 for each additional foot.
Burmese pythons pose a significant threat to the Everglades ecosystem. Along with State, Federal, Tribal, and local partners, Everglades National Park and the FWC have invested millions of dollars and countless hours in developing and testing ways to remove pythons from the Everglades. While the research has improved knowledge of the python population, eliminating pythons using current technology is impossible, according to the FWC. Search and removal by trained individuals remains the best method to remove pythons. The park used volunteers for removal in the past, and while it will continue to do so, the addition of FWC contractors will allow greater numbers of skilled people to engage in removals than ever before.
Tens of thousands of pythons are estimated to be slithering through the Everglades. Scientists say the giant constrictor snakes have eliminated 99 percent of the native mammals in the Everglades, decimating food sources for native predators such as panthers and alligators.
Ramos says that hunting remains prohibited in Everglades National Park, but allowing state contractors to remove pythons “will be welcomed by concerned citizens that want to play a role in helping with this significant problem.”