Florida is well known for its crocodiles but, of late, Pythons have taken over and, with nearly 100,000 of them roaming free in the Florida Everglades, there is a genuine problem, and the authorities have had to rope in specialist hunters.

The pythons are ravaging Florida’s Everglades, and they have no enemies. One of these was a 13-footer and once cut open it was found to have three baby deer in its belly. It seems these pythons were used to be pets but were abandoned by the owners in the swamps once they became too big to handle; hence Python Hunters are inducted.

These have subsequently multiplied, and their numbers have become unmanageable.

Magnitude of the problem

Fox News reports that according to Florida Fish & Wildlife, pythons have nearly wiped out the small mammal population of the state. Therefore, in Miami-Dade County, the South Florida Water Management District took a decision to employ people to get rid of the menace. They agreed to pay twenty-five python hunters an amount of $8.10 per hour, and they would have to use all possible means to eliminate the reptiles. It was a two-month, $175,000 pilot program.

Thus Swamp Apes was born. It was a group of snake hunters who specialized in not only removing pythons but taking veterans out into Florida’s buggy backcountry to save the ecosystem and try to restore the natural Florida Everglades.

As a result of their actions, they have successfully killed and removed 149 pythons. The longest one was a 16-footer while the general size was in the range of 7- to 9-foot. There are additional incentives for them depending on the size of the catch. Of course, it is not any smooth sailing because there may be days when they do not find a single prey but the disappointment will turn to joy when they come across a whole bunch in a single day.

The pythons of the Everglades

Python problem is not new to Florida. It has held the “Python Challenges” on two occasions in which as many as 1,500 amateur python hunters joined to put their skills to the test. However, in the opinion of Water District Chairman Dan O’Keefe, the use of the 25 experts on payment basis is giving better results.

They are experts and know where to look. He wants to make it a regular feature.

A plus point of this exercise is that nearly half of the pythons captured and killed under this project were females. This was a significant achievement because each female can lay many eggs at a time which would have translated into thousands more in the Florida Everglades. That has been prevented.

People have a fascination for exotic pets, and pythons fall in this category but, once they start growing and become too big to handle, the owners try to offload them into the swamps of the Everglades. It is unfortunate that they do not realize the harm they are doing to the environment because these reptiles prey on other animals and destroy the ecological balance.