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July 18, 2009, 04:29 AM
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced today that the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in partnership with the State of Florida and other stakeholders, are renewing their commitment and expanding existing programs to eliminate Burmese pythons from the Everglades.

“Burmese pythons are an invasive species that have no place in the Everglades and threaten its delicate ecosystem,” Salazar said. “We are committed to aggressively combating this threat, including having trained and well-supervised volunteers hunt down and remove snakes.”

“I have also directed my staff to look at the possibility of allocating additional federal resources this fiscal year and I have asked federal and state agencies to work with us to quickly develop an action plan to control this invasive species,” he said.

The Burmese python (Python molurus), a large exotic snake, is well-established in the Everglades. Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, and the Water Conservation Areas, represent the core areas of the python infestation.

As effective predators, pythons are having negative impacts on native species in the Everglades ecosystem. Because of the serious threat posed by pythons, the National Park Service (NPS), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), along with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the South Florida Water Management District, and many other partners are actively engaged in a large variety of potential python control efforts.

Pythons are cryptic animals – they blend into their environments extremely well - making them difficult to efficiently locate and capture. Most python sightings and captures occur in developed areas, such as roads and canal levees, which comprise only a small percentage of potential python habitats.

Pythons have been observed within the largely inaccessible and remote mangrove forests of the parks. Conservatively, scientists believe that only small fractions (0.1-5%) of pythons present on NPS lands are detected. Given these challenges, the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service have recognized the need to consider and implement a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach to python control. These efforts include:

Expansion of an authorized agent python capture program – For several years, NPS has partnered with up to a dozen experienced and highly motivated volunteer authorized agents that have removed hundreds of pythons. Data from these captures has been invaluable to park biologists in developing other control tools and assessing impact this invasive snake is having on native resources. The NPS is working on expanding the authorized agent program to provide more thorough and regular efforts to remove pythons. The Park Service is also working closely with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to evaluate the State’s pilot bounty permit system and consider its appropriateness for NPS lands.

Pilot "Partner with Hunters" Program in Big Cypress National Preserve – The NPS and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are working together to partner with licensed hunters that hunt game species within the Preserve under Florida state law. The “Partner with Hunters” program will allow trained, qualified, and licensed hunters the opportunity to terminate pythons, a non-game species, with the use of their firearm if they come across one during the course of their normal hunting activity. The snakes will be collected by the NPS and data gathered will be used for research/ monitoring and control efforts. Existing hunting activities and supporting infrastructure, including law enforcement, hunting check stations, and use of off-road vehicles, makes the Preserve an appropriate location for piloting this program in partnership with the hunting community.

Everglades invasive animal response team – NPS is actively working with FWS and USGS to establish a Federally-funded invasive animal rapid response and control team that would provide full-time coordination among the south Florida natural resource management agencies, including field operations, science support, and educational and outreach efforts.

Cooperative workshops – FWS has organized and facilitated multi-agency workshops to address the threats posed by pythons and help prioritize and coordinate management efforts. NPS and FWS provide leadership to the Everglades Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area, a multi-agency team, to better coordinate and pool resources.

Risk Assessment and review of control methods – FWS and NPS are funding a USGS risk assessment project to help define the nature of the threat and develop biological/management profiles for nine large constrictor snakes. The risk assessment will contain information that has broad application to the management of pythons and other large exotic constrictors in the U.S.

Study of python movements and habitat use – NPS is working with USGS, University of Florida, and Davidson College to understand python movement and habitat use in the Everglades. These efforts, including radio tracking snakes to allow scientists to follow them, often finding other snakes, and providing critical information to formulate effective control programs.

Python trap and attractant development – NPS and FWS are funding development of an effective python trap and lure along with USGS, University of Florida, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In addition, NPS is cooperating with an NGO to conduct preliminary research on python pheromones which may someday be used as an attractant for trapping. Prototype traps are deployed in North Key Largo in hopes of halting the spread of pythons to the Florida Keys and traps will soon be deployed in known python concentrations around Everglades National Park.

Unmanned aerial vehicles and thermal imaging – NPS is working with USGS and the University of Florida to test small, remotely operated airplanes and heat-detecting sensors for use in detecting pythons in the Everglades. These technologies may be useful to detect and aid in the capture of pythons in their natural habitats.

Diet Studies – NPS, in conjunction with the University of Florida and the Smithsonian Institution, is analyzing gut contents of captured pythons and identifying prey items to better understand the python’s impacts on native species.

Mercury bioaccumulation studies – NPS has partnered with USGS to understand mercury concentrations in python tissue because high mercury concentrations may pose a risk to human health if pythons are consumed. This information is critical to inform the current development of python collecting and hunting programs.

Reporting mechanisms – NPS established a python hotline for public reporting of python observations.

Education and outreach – NPS and FWS have worked cooperatively with our partners at the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the South Florida Water Management District to develop signs that remind the public that release of snakes and other exotics is a crime. We have implemented the “Don’t Let It Loose” public and school education campaign and endorsed Habitatitude to promote responsible pet ownership. NPS recently printed and distributed over 450,000 copies of “Florida Invaders” to educate the public about the threat of invasive nonnative plants and animals. The FWS and NPS participated in the recent State-sponsored Non-native Pet Amnesty Day event held at the Miami Zoo educating the public about pythons and other non-native invasive wildlife.

"The removal of invasive pythons from the Everglades in a key step in our larger ecosystem restoration efforts,” said Dan Kimball, superintendent, Everglades National Park. “Our success will fully depend on how well we can cooperate, partner, learn from each other, and maintain a high level of commitment to addressing this problem in the long term.”

"Eliminating these exotic pythons in Florida will require a full partnership between federal and state agencies and with the assistance from trained members of the public,” said Pedro Ramos, superintendent, Big Cypress National Preserve. “These joint efforts will provide vital information on the animals’ movement, habitat use, food sources and other information which will aid in future improvements of eradication methods.”

“Addressing the python threat requires a broad partnership with many
strategies,” said Paul Souza, South Florida Ecological Services field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “There is no one silver bullet. We are committed to continuing our work with our partners in the State of Florida to make headway on this
significant challenge."

Together, the NPS, FWS, and their partners will continue their efforts to implement a variety of python management efforts to control and hopefully eradicate the Burmese python in south Florida.

Python facts from the National Geographic site:

Native to the jungles and grassy marshes of Southeast Asia, Burmese pythons are among the largest snakes on Earth. They are capable of reaching 23 feet (7 meters) or more in length and weighing up to 200 pounds (90 kilograms) with a girth as big as a telephone pole. When young, they will spend much of their time in the trees. However, as they mature and their size and weight make tree climbing unwieldy, they transition to mainly ground-dwelling. They are also excellent swimmers, and can stay submerged for up to 30 minutes before surfacing for air.

Burmese pythons are carnivores, surviving primarily on small mammals and birds. They have poor eyesight, and stalk prey using chemical receptors in their tongues and heat-sensors along the jaws. They kill by constriction, grasping a victim with their sharp teeth, coiling their bodies around the animal, and squeezing until it suffocates. They have stretchy ligaments in their jaws that allow them to swallow all their food whole.


July 18, 2009, 09:45 AM
A close buddy of mine is in Homestead. He says the iguanas are everywhere and getting huge like 5 foot routinely.
He has also seen the Tegu himself and in speaking with a Fl state biologist, he has learned that the Nile Monitor and tegu are both getting a great foothold as well.

Like the biologist said, how are a few guys covering thousands of square miles of prime habitat searching for these reptiles going to put a dent in this problem.

As he stated a wise point of note... these reptiles produce dozens of eggs and once laid, the parent can be killed and the offspring will still flourish as they need no parental care to insure survival.
It is a 100% human problem with zero human solution.

Art Eatman
July 18, 2009, 11:01 AM
Seems to me that one problem with the program is that a lot of possible helpers wouldn't want to get involved in paperwork and transport of a stinky carcass to some checkpoint. Since the more hunters, the better, anything that's a turnoff is not good.

A $50 bounty per snake or lizard would get a lot of help. If there are indeed 150,000 pythons in the Glades, the whole batch isn't but $7.5 million. That's a bunch less than we're giving the financial folks.

July 18, 2009, 11:23 AM
Art is right about it.... Year around hunting for all invasive species. I think a 4-8 hour course on the rules of the park system and what will and will not be allowed as for the actual use of traps, snares, weapons, vehicles etc. would be acceptable. Then a bounty on killed animals and if a guy is live catching, he should be a licensed herp dealer with severe ramifications if he is caught cheating the system in any way. No bounty on live captured animals.
There has to be much better ways to bring in individuals to assist the state/feds in keeping the area free of invasive damage. I have a buddy (afore mentioned in previous post) that kills any iguana or python he crosses paths with but he isn't financially able to justify going out burning the gas and ammo to hunt them in the forest. He would spend every day off from work for $50.00 per kill and he is good enough and knowledgeable to get into the snakes.

July 18, 2009, 02:14 PM
Damded park service should have started worry'n about these snakes over a decade ago. They were more than a few around on the south west coast 12 years ago. My daughter say a yellow and white python on our land back 12 years ago and i could not find it in the hardwood hammock. He was seen again 1/2 mile down three days later. There were indigos in the bigcypress that could push 14 feet in lenght. The biggest problem in finding these snakes will be unlimited access to the different swamps. The park service has limited were you can drive a buggy to the point you can't cover much of the lands and some of the best habitat ,all hardwood canipopied forest areas we can't even go into. Panther habbit is just plan closed. How far are you going to walk in a swamp to drag out any kind of game,snake or deer.

July 18, 2009, 03:42 PM
Now they are not so sure of the number of snakes running around the Everglades. The grand total reported last night on the news was 1 python killed.

July 18, 2009, 10:37 PM
I know a guy who has a permit to catch and sell python and other snakes.

He routinely drives downt he road to Flamingo and typically gets 1 or 2 pythons per trip. He's a muscular dude and has had some snakes in the 12-15 ft range drag him into the woods since he just won't let go.

My granmother spotted a 12 ft python in Fort Meyers a few years back and called the cops - she sure hated snakes. Especially ones that were longer than the road was wide! LOL!

We have so many exotics down here - the peacock bass and oscars have a thiving fishery, the brazilian pepper and paper trees are taking over everything - you've all seen the photo's of the snake that broke apart with the alligator in it.

The snakes are there. It just takes trained people to find them.

July 18, 2009, 10:49 PM
The south florida region suffers enuff pressure of invasive species from the hurricane winds carrying all sorts of specimens that we don't need these species placed by man.
The buddy I mention is also a hog dogger and he HATES them brazillion pepper trees and their little tiny ants with a dark purple passion...:D
He gave my son an 8 foot python he caught in the woods.
Having grown up as a cuban redneck boy he can get you right into the snakes and such but like he said... "Man, I can't afford to do it for free..."
He said to find a canal with bluegill, bream, and bass populations worth fishing is impossible with all the peacock bass, oscars and other cichlids taking over.

July 19, 2009, 11:27 AM
I have not been back in the south florida woods in 11 years but man ,this brings back all the bad hap'n to the glades and big cypress. I would go down us 41 with a kids when little and all you could catch then was oscars and gar. You could still go to loop road and if the water was flowing catch some small warmouth ,blue gills and sun bellys in general. After the 10' fence was installed on gator alley we use to put in canoes in the south blocks and get to water where the bass hadn't seen people in years and they would swim up to look at you,big assed fish and then swim back down to the deep holes. You could still catch 100 small bass( throw backs) in a afternoon. Then the F&G started to warn to finally write tickets for slip in there to fish. Darn panther habitat. Man many good years in them woods and can't go at all any more in the best place's. Also best for those big snakes. Don't forget the malaluka trees and astralian pines.

July 19, 2009, 07:27 PM
The only issue I have with a bounty, is that then you'll have every yahoo in there causing more damage to an already fragile ecosystem. If there's a way to eliminate that, then go for it and kill them all. There are so many invasive species - both animal and plant in there, it is absolutely amazing.

No offensive to our Georgia neighbors, but why are we buying cypress mulch from Ga. when we have the melaleuca tree which is invasive, works better than cypress as a mulch, and needs to be eradicated. Hopefully, these pythons can be eradicated quickly

July 20, 2009, 10:32 AM
The bounty is not just an open bounty, You have to sign up and deal with the bs involved that the park service will also lay on you. So much for eradicating the snakes quickly. They all ready been there for a couple decades. This will just turn into one more eco screw up gone wild.

Old Grump
July 20, 2009, 11:40 AM
So Senator Nelson's grandstand plea is making some effect on policy huh? Not to be pessimistic but we can't control English Sparrows or African Bee's or Buck Thorn Tree's or Kudzu. There is no way enough people can get into the swamp and control pythons without it being cost prohibitive. As mentioned, the regulations hunters will have to abide by will put a crimp in any real effort.

Should have controlled the pet trade and made it a felony to release these kinds of critters 50 years ago, the cat is out of the bag and won't go back in willingly. Even up north here we occasionally catch large carp looking fish that are goldfish turned loose that grew to monster sizes. My boy caught one that was nearly 5 pounds in a little pond at an apartment complex stocked with bluegills for the kids. To many fuzzy Wuzzies that must have these pets and then can't handle them when they get to big. To fuzzy wuzzy to kill them and not smart enough to give them to a zoo so to be nice to their pet they dump the problem on the rest of us.

July 20, 2009, 11:51 AM
To fuzzy wuzzy to kill them and not smart enough to give them to a zoo so to be nice to their pet they dump the problem on the rest of us.
And thus the great numbers of "targets of opportunity" for the "eco-hunters":D
Nothing like spotting a well camouflaged green tabby stalking in the tall morning dew moistened native grasses!:eek:

Art Eatman
July 22, 2009, 10:10 AM
Oneounceload, I'll bet you that one residential subdivision does more damage than a thousand hunters. :) Or one drainage ditch, for that matter.

July 22, 2009, 03:40 PM
This python thang is allready a done deal. Just one more non-native multply'n like crazy and no way to stop it or even slow it with out the park service stepp'n back and letting the good ole boys run wild again. There has been areas that have been closed to the public for decades. And the some of it is it has no one that pays close attention except to fly over in a chopper.