May 23, 2018

Hissssssssssssssssstory Made in the Everglades!
SFWMD Python Hunters Eliminate 1000th Snake
Eliminated snake total highlights District's ongoing efforts to eradicate invasive species to protect ecosystem
SFWMD Python Hunter Brian Hargrove (left) captured the 1000th invasive Burmese python as part of the Python Elimination Program. Click on the image to watch high resolution B-roll footage of the 1000th python weigh in event held Tuesday, May 22, in Homestead.
West Palm Beach, FL - Yesterday, May 22, hunters participating in the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board's Python Elimination Program achieved an important milestone for this highly successful initiative by eliminating the 1000th snake. An average of three pythons have been eliminated per day from SFWMD lands since the program began in March 2017.
 
Eliminating invasive species such as Burmese pythons is critical to preserving the rare Everglades ecosystem. Florida taxpayers have invested billions of dollars to restore the water quality and hydrology of the
Click on the image to watch high resolution B-roll of the weigh in of the 1000th python captured as part of the SFWMD Python Elimination Program.
Everglades. Combatting invasive plants and animals is necessary to ensure this investment results in our shared goals of the overall restoration plan.

"The success of this program was made possible through a dedicated team approach," said SFWMD scientist Mike Kirkland, project manager for the Python Elimination Program. "Staff implemented, hunters executed and our state leadership, particularly Gov. Rick Scott, supported a program that fights for the Everglades every day."
 
Hunter Brian Hargrove dispatched the 1000th python, an 11-foot-2-inch long snake.  The weigh-in of the milestone snake was broadcast live on SFWMD's Facebook page and can be viewed by CLICKING HERE. Hargrove, a Miami native who grew up visiting the Everglades as a child, talked about how he used to see the Everglades full of native species and how the python has decimated the native wildlife.

"When we would come out here as kids, rabbits would be everywhere," Hargrove said. "I've been out here hunting for months and I've seen one rabbit and 120 pythons."

Several hunters turned out at the 1000th snake weigh-in event to congratulate Hargrove and bring their own eliminated pythons. In all, seven hunters weighed in a combined total of almost 98 feet worth of eliminated invasive Burmese python.
 
All the pythons eliminated by the program would stretch approximately 7,300 feet - or about 1.4 miles - and weigh more than 16,500 pounds, or the equivalent of more than 8 tons. To date, all of this has been accomplished with less than $250,000 spent on wages and bounties for the hunters, an average expenditure of less than $250 per snake.

"Congratulations to the South Florida Water Management District, and the many hunters that have taken part in this program, on the elimination of their 1000th invasive Burmese Python," said U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Naples. "The 12-foot-long python that is hanging in my office is a daily reminder of the need to eradicate this species and protect the unique ecosystem of our Everglades. I am currently working with the U.S. Department of Interior and the House Natural Resources Committee to allow for hunting of Burmese Pythons within Everglades National Park, as well as to allow the male python tracking program organized by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. This will speed up the process of eliminating these snakes, which are not native to our area and have no natural predators."
 
In addition to the innovative program fighting the spread of Burmese pythons, the SFWMD Governing Board for years has budgeted millions of dollars in cooperation with other state and federal partners to eradicate and control invasive species such as melaleuca, Brazilian pepper trees and the invasive fern, lygodium.
 
Elected officials and celebrities ranging from Rooney to superstar chef Gordon Ramsey have taken part in the hunt, bringing international awareness to the issue of this invasive species and the District's efforts to eradicate them. Python hunters were also featured in a Discovery Channel television special highlighting the program.

SFWMD's Python Elimination Program facilitates the elimination of the invasive snakes on District-owned land. A similar successful program is managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Python Removal Contractor Program. This program pays qualified individuals to survey other specific areas of state-owned land for the pythons, humanely euthanize each python they catch in the field (according to American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines) and then deposit them at designated drop-off locations.

"Under Gov. Scott's leadership, python removal has increased dramatically among the many state partners. This milestone demonstrates that the SFWMD is a significant and effective partner in our long-term goal to manage invasive species like the Burmese python," said Eric Sutton, Executive Director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

About the District's Python Elimination Program
A team of professional python hunters were selected from more than 1,000 applicants and given access to District-owned lands in Miami-Dade County for the pilot phase and later in Broward and Collier counties as the program expanded. These independent contractors are paid $8.25 per hour, up to eight hours daily, to hunt in the Everglades. Depending on the size of the snake presented, hunters can also receive additional payments of $50 for pythons measuring up to 4 feet and an extra $25 for each foot measured above 4 feet. An additional $200 is given for each eliminated python nest with eggs.

The invasive Burmese python, which breeds and multiplies quickly and has no natural predator in the Everglades ecosystem, has decimated native populations of wildlife. The more that can be eliminated, especially females and their eggs, the better chance future generations of native wildlife will have to thrive in the Everglades ecosystem that Floridians have invested billions of dollars to restore.


Media Contact: 
Randy Smith  |   rrsmith@sfwmd.gov    |  Office: 561-682-2800  |  Cell: 561-389-3386
The South Florida Water Management District is a regional governmental agency that manages the water resources in the southern part of the state. It is the oldest and largest of the state's five water management districts. Our mission is to protect South Florida's water resources by balancing and improving flood control, water supply, water quality and natural systems.

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