Python eggs, over easy. Hunter captures 12-foot snake and 39 eggs in Everglades

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Snake hunters and haters, rejoice.

A 12-foot Burmese python was captured, and its 39 eggs confiscated, Friday morning near a canal in an Everglades preserve.

John Hammond, a state-licensed python hunter for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, found the snake laying on the clutch of eggs near the Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area in West Miami-Dade. The snake will be euthanized, said FWC spokeswoman Carli Segelson.

As for the eggs? Scrambled.

“Every Python is a threat to the Everglades ecosystem,” Segelson wrote in an email. “Every one of these snakes that is removed — even those that have not yet hatched — is a great success.”

The FWC’s Python Removal Contractor Program pays experienced snake hunters like Hammond to capture the nonnative species on an hourly rate, with additional payments for pythons measuring up to four feet and an extra bonus for longer snakes.

The hunters began looking for pythons in 2009, when then-Gov. Charlie Crist approved an initial version of the program, which was likened to one used for hunting ”nuisance” alligators on state lands.

The invasive Burmese pythonsare likely the offspring of pets released by owners or freed from snake breeders’ cages during Hurricane Andrew nearly 25 years ago.

Last week, the South Florida Water Management District renewed its own elimination program, which got rid of 158 snakes during a two-month pilot phase confined to Miami-Dade County. The Python Elimination Program, which ended June 1, is slated to restart Saturday and will continue through the end of September or until the remaining $125,000 budget is spent.

Hunters also will now be allowed into expanded territory in Broward and Collier counties.

This program began on March 25, when 25 professional python hunters were selected from 1,000 applicants and given access to hunt on lands owned by the district. During the pilot, the program paid out more than $25,000 in bounties and $24,000 in hourly wages to the hunters, who spent around 3,000 hours hunting the snakes. In total, the snakes eliminated by the program would stretch almost 1,400 feet long and weigh about two tons.

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