Bill Nelson's great python/publicity hunting adventure
IN THE FLORIDA EVERGLADES – U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson really hates pythons.
He wants them out of Florida. He wants them dead.
He tells anyone who will listen — and TV cameras tend to eat it up — how non-native Burmese pythons are threatening to upend the ecosystem of the Everglades.
He recounts the 17-foot, 7-inch python found in the Everglades with 87 eggs inside waiting to hatch. And the 16-footer found in the Everglades after devouring a deer whole.
“There was a child killed in Central Florida by one of these kept as a pet,” he reminded reporters Thursday. “The pythons don’t belong here.”
To show how much he means it, Nelson set out to personally kill some of the critters. Equipped with handguns, machetes and five airboats loaded with media, wildlife experts, aides and one true fellow Florida cracker, Python Bill spent six hours stalking the menacing monsters.
“You can hear the hissing right now. This guy is getting upset,’’ Nelson said contemptuously of a live 13-foot Burmese python, its girth as thick as a man’s thigh, that three men held out to show reporters before Nelson set out from Alligator Alley for the hunt.
As many as 150,000 pythons are said to be lurking in the Everglades, gorging on raccoons, bobcats, small gators, opossums and most anything else they want.
That figure might produce an image of the Everglades, well, crawling with monstrous serpents everywhere. The thing is, the Everglades covers 4 million acres, pythons are impeccably camouflaged and they remain scarce in warm weather.
Reporters along for the ride never did get to see the 70-year-old senator ram a machete into the head of a giant python because no one found any.
There was a brief moment of excitement, however, when a writer from the Tallahassee Democrat, wading through the sawgrass marsh, announced, remarkably calmly, he had just stepped on a sizeable snake.
It turned out to be an old PVC pipe lurking under the water.