The python elimination program has eliminated 1,859 invasive Burmese pythons in just two years.
A Florida snake hunter captured the longest invasive Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus) in the history of the South Florida Water Management District’s (SFWMD) Python Elimination Program. The snake was captured by Kyle Penniston of Homestead, FL., and it measured 17-feet, 5-inches and weighed 120 pounds. The capture and elimination of this invasive species marks the third time in the district’s two year history that a snake exceeded the 17-foot mark.
According to the South Florida Water Management District, Penniston is the second most prolific python hunter, with a total of 235 snakes removed from district lands. The most successful hunter is Miami native Brian Hargrove, who has eliminated 257 snakes.
“Just six months after eliminating the first 1,000 pythons from District lands, this program is about to double that total because of a true team effort,” SFWMD scientist Mike Kirkland, project manager for the Python Elimination Program said in a statement announcing the record setting catch. “With the Governing Board’s unwavering support, District staff and a dedicated group of hunters are working to help control this invasive species and protect native wildlife.”
In March 2017, district-owned lands were opened up to selected professional python hunters initially in Miami-Dade County. The hunt was later expanded to Palm Beach, Broward and Collier counties. The hunters are paid $8.25 an hour for up to eight hours a day to hunt in the Everglades. The district also offered cash incentives based on the size of the snake (payments of $50 for pythons measuring up to 4 feet and an extra $25 for each foot measured above 4 feet ) as well as $200 for any python nests the hunters come across and eliminate.
The Burmese python is one of the largest snakes in the world and is native to Southeast Asia. It can grow up to 20 feet and reach a weight of more than 300 pounds, though most top out around 13 to 14 feet and weigh around 130 pounds. Captive bred specimens have a mostly docile disposition, so much so that they are often called the gentle giants of the large constricting snakes.