MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Five-thousand invasive Burmese pythons have been captured and removed from the Florida Everglades, which marks a milestone since the state started paying hunters to track them down in 2017.

The python hunter program is managed by the South Florida Water Management District and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

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“We’ve learned through the Python Challenge that experience counts when finding and removing Burmese pythons,” said FWC Commissioner Rodney Barreto. “We can’t win the battle alone. It’s one team, one mission. We need the support of these experienced python hunters as well as the partnership with the South Florida Water Management District and the ongoing support of Gov. Ron DeSantis.”

Professional python hunter Amy Siewe with 17.3 foot python she caught recently (Courtesy: South Florida Water Management District)

Every python captured is “another win for the Everglades,” said SFWMD Governing Board Member “Alligator Ron” Bergeron. “Every snake counts. Each invasive python eliminated represents hundreds of native Florida wildlife saved. With Gov. DeSantis’ continued leadership, Florida is doing more than it ever has to remove pythons from the Everglades and protect this ecosystem for generations to come.”

(Courtesy: South Florida Water Management District)

Burmese pythons were first discovered in the Everglades nearly two decades ago.

It’s believed they became established in Florida as a result of escaped or released pets and they are causing serious harm to the fragile Everglades ecosystem by eating native wildlife such as possum, rabbits, deer, bobcats, and other indigenous wildlife.

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It is illegal to release nonnative species into the wild.

They’ve been successful at reproducing in the swampy Everglades because they have no predators. Females can lay up to 100 eggs.

(Courtesy: South Florida Water Management District)

That’s why the state started the bounty program, in which registered hunters earn a minimum wage rate for up to 10 hours of work a day, plus a bonus for their catch: $50 for each python measuring up to four feet plus $25 more for each food measured above four feet. Hunters who catch a nesting female python earn an additional $200.

Scientists estimate there are between 100,000 and 300,000 pythons in the Everglades.

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To learn more about the FWC’s Python Action Team and the SFWMD’s Python Elimination Program, visit MyFWC.com/Python and SFWMD.gov/Python.