Hunters aid in the fight against nonnative snakes
As I See It
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Media contact: Rodney Barreto
It never ceases to amaze me. We just wrapped
up a big event in the Everglades, in which we trained hunters on
how to capture and remove nonnative snakes, and we sent them out to
test their skills. It was a cold, damp day. The experts said the
pythons would be hiding due to the inclement weather.
The media that gathered were not optimistic. In
fact, none of us were. We pretty much resigned ourselves to the
prospect that the hunters might go home empty-handed. But sure
enough, a team of freshly trained hunters spotted a 5-foot Burmese
python in the brush along the L-67 levee. The hunter told us he was
able to spot and stalk the snake after receiving our training. He
had never caught a wild python before. It just goes to show these
snakes are out there, and they are more common than we might
We just unveiled a new weapon in the fight against
nonnative snakes in the Everglades. Hunters are the latest tool in
our toolbox. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
(FWC) created a special chance for hunters to capture and remove
reptiles of concern from state-managed lands around the Everglades.
From March 8 to April 17, those with a hunting license and a $26
management area permit may take reptiles of concern (Indian python,
reticulated python, northern and southern African rock python,
amethystine or scrub python, green anaconda and Nile monitor
lizard) on Everglades and Francis S. Taylor, Holey Land and
Rotenberger wildlife management areas (WMAs).
The specially created season, established by
executive order, follows the close of small game season on the
three WMAs, and continues during a period when the nonnative snakes
are likely to be encountered. During cooler months, cold-blooded
reptiles sun themselves on levees, canal banks and roadways to warm
up. This makes them easier to spot, capture and remove.
We are once again engaging our stakeholders, in
this case, the hunting community, to help us reduce the number of
reptiles of concern in the Everglades. Our hunters are on the
front lines, and we hope, by tapping into their knowledge of the
Everglades, we can make significant progress in this effort.
We provided the hunters with the knowledge they
need to succeed in this endeavor. A large group of hunters received
training on how to identify, stalk, capture and remove reptiles of
concern. The FWC and experts from the reptile industry provided the
training, which included lessons in biology and behavior.
I was recently introduced to a South Florida tanner
who explained the value of harvested hides. He showed me
python-skin belts, boots and pants. I was surprised to learn that
python skins can sell for as much as $5 a foot.
We are serious about helping to stop the spread of
reptiles of concern in the Everglades. Over the years, we've ramped
up our efforts. We've offered pet amnesty days to folks who want to
surrender their nonnative pets legally with no questions asked, and
we've put tighter restrictions on ownership of reptiles of concern.
We've engaged the reptile industry and have enlisted its experts to
capture and remove nonnative snakes on state-managed lands. Now,
we're asking hunters to get involved.
This is about conservation. We are working together
to protect our fragile ecosystem from these exotic predators. A
balanced ecosystem benefits our native wildlife, thus benefitting
Just a reminder, reptiles of concern may be taken
by all legal methods (including shotguns, rimfire rifles and
pistols) used in the taking of game animals; however, the use of
centerfire rifles is prohibited. Reptiles of concern may not
be taken out of the wildlife management areas alive and must be
reported to the FWC within 36 hours by calling, toll-free,
866-392-4286, or by visiting MyFWC.com/ROC.