State Officials Double Down On Python Removal Efforts
Florida agencies are increasing the number of python hunters—and the amount of land they're allowed to hunt on.
"We're committed to doubling the resources for python removal in the upcoming year," Governor Ron DeSantis said.
DeSantis made the announcement at Everglades Holiday Park in Broward County Wednesday afternoon. Six people held a fidgety 12-foot long python behind him.
"Could you move a little bit that way with it?" Desantis asked the snake handlers, laughing.
Invasive Burmese pythons in the Everglades have long been a concern to scientists—namely because of their appetite for mammals. The python has been linked to declining wildlife population in the unique ecosystem.
On Wednesday, DeSantis also announced the U.S. Department of Interior has agreed to open remote areas of Big Cypress National Preserve to python hunters, to get access to areas they haven't been allowed in the past.
"We are going to go forward with an access plan for python removal in Big Cypress," DeSantis said. "The details are being worked out, but that is going to happen."
Previously, the preserve had established a Partner With Hunters Program for people to capture pythons, but hunters have only been allowed within the public and designated wildlife managment area.
Biscayne National Park was the only new national park added for python hunting this year.
At the state level, The Florida Wish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the state's departments of Environmental Protection and Agriculture and Consumer Services have formed an agreement to allow for pythons to be removed from any state park where the snake is found. The deal adds 130,000 additional acres of possible snake hunting space.
The FWC will also work together with the South Florida Water Management District to share research on new technologies to remove the snakes, and work to make their python removal trainings interchangeable.
"Basically, the plan is to increase the expert hunters...," Ron Bergeron, or "Alligator Ron" said at the announcement. He was appointed to the South Florida Water Management District Board earlier this year.
The governor's office did not immediately answer how much the redoubled python removal efforts would cost, or where funding for the expansion will come from. On average, it costs the state more than $228 to remove one python, according to a presentation on invasive specias last month from FWC.
"We're going to increase the pressure on a snake that is actually destroying all of our natural food chain in the beautiful Everglades," Bergeron said.
WLRN Reporter Jenny Staletovich contributed to this report.