Hunting Burmese Pythons can help to control the spread of this invasive species and save the native wildlife of The Everglades. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, there are an estimated 300,000 Burmese Pythons in South Florida, and that number is predicted to grow every year.
Importing the pythons was banned back in 2012 when experts began to understand the devastating effect that the snakes were having on the native species. Burmese Pythons prey on the smaller crocodilian species, as well as a wide variety of mammals and birds.
Since the spread of the pythons, there has been an 88% decline in sightings of bobcat, foxes, opossums and raccoons. The pythons need to be controlled in order to prevent the destruction of the wildlife in the Everglades.
Controlling The Pythons
Strategies to control the ever-growing population of Burmese Pythons have had mixed success. Trapping has proved to be ineffective for catching snakes because they move infrequently.
Biocontrol using a virus has been suggested, but there is sadly a greater risk to the ecosystem if the pathogen used to kill the pythons is not species-specific. The most reliable method of reducing the number of pythons is to hunt them, and python-sniffing dogs have been used to seek out snakes in recent years. There are also state-sponsored python hunts and paid challenges to control the pythons.
This year, the Florida Python Challenge runs from July 9th to 18th. The person who hunts the most pythons can win a cash prize of $2,500 and there is a $1,500 prize for the longest python. A two-week challenge, however, is still not enough to control the pythons – this needs to be done all year round.
Hunting Burmese Pythons
If you wish to join the effort to hunt Burmese Pythons, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is actively encouraging the public to get involved. You don’t need a special permit license in order to hunt Burmese Pythons.
You will, however, need an effective firearm. The AR-15 is fully customizable and can be built from scratch. An AR-15 chambered in .223 is good for humanely hunting this invasive species, as it has light recoil, and can produce quick follow-up shots.
Pythons can be killed on private land, as long as you have the landowner’s permission. There are also numerous public lands where you can freely hunt Burmese Pythons, including The Everglades.
Disposing Of Burmese Pythons
Live pythons should never be removed from the South Florida area – they should be culled using a humane shot to the head. The skins can be sold or used for textiles, and even making jewelry.
Local hunter Amy Siewe has established a successful business selling bracelets and watch bands made from Burmese Python skin from snakes she hunted in The Everglades. An Apple watch band sells for $250. Python meat, meanwhile, can be eaten. However, within The Everglades, Burmese Python meat has been found to contain high levels of mercury, so human consumption is not advised.