West Palm Beach, FL - Hunters participating in the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board's ongoing Python Elimination Program have achieved another important milestone for this highly successful initiative by eliminating enough snakes to stretch more than two miles in length and weigh more than 10 tons. An average of about 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 Everglades. Reducing the populations of invasive plants and animals is necessary to ensure this investment results in meeting the shared goals of the overall restoration plan.
"This program continues to be proven successful over time because of each and every dedicated member of the team, from the Governing Board members who continue to fund it to the staff and the python hunters who work long nights to rid the Everglades of this snake," said SFWMD scientist Mike Kirkland, project manager for the Python Elimination Program.
So far, python hunters have captured 1,711 snakes stretching a combined length of more than two miles and weighing a combined 20,864 pounds, or 10.4 tons. Hunter Brian Hargrove, a Miami native, has dispatched the most pythons, with 235 snakes eliminated as a result of the success achieved. The SFWMD Governing Board has funded the program for the entirety of the 2018-2019 Budget Year.
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 (also known as Old World climbing fern).
Elected officials and celebrities ranging from U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla., to superstar chef Gordon Ramsey have taken part in the hunts, 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.
About the District's Python Elimination Program
A team of professional python hunters was 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 Palm Beach, 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.