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1274432 2038-01-18 05:00:00.0 UTC 2038-01-18T00:00:00.000-05:00 2013-02-08 22:58:18.0 UTC 2013-02-08T17:58:18.000-05:00 floridas-greatest-python-slayer-is-a-great-grandpa-with-a-shotgun published 2013-02-09 02:56:09.0 UTC 2013-02-08T21:56:09.000-05:00 news/environment/wildlife DTI 102995994 On the day the great Florida Python Challenge kicked off last month, a huge crowd of would-be snake slayers milled around, some of them trailed by the cameras from reality television shows. Nobody paid much attention to the beefy man with a thick beard who was quietly wandering around observing everything. But they should have. Most of the 1,500 hunters who signed up for the Python Challenge never saw a single snake. Meanwhile, Bobby Hill, 61 and a great-grandfather, has killed more pythons in the Everglades than anyone in the world. He didn't sign up for the Python Challenge because hunting snakes is his job. Over the past nine years, he has killed some 300 pythons, mostly by blasting them with his 12-gauge Winchester 1400. He has collected another 400 that were run over. "He's incredible," said Frank Mazzotti, the University of Florida biologist overseeing the science end of the Python Challenge. "You'll walk by a spot and not see anything, and he'll stop because he knows something is there." The key to his success, according to Larry Perez, author of Snake in the Grass: An Everglades Invasion, is Hill's extensive knowledge of the Florida landscape. Hill was born in the town he still calls "Miam-uh," and grew up hunting, trapping and fishing at a camp his father built in the 1950s in the Big Cypress Swamp. In 1973 he began working for the South Florida Water Management District, doing such work as mowing rights of way and spraying herbicide in the canals. One day in 2004, he got a maintenance call unlike any he'd ever gotten before. "I found a snake," a supervisor told him over the radio. "Okay," Hill said, not grasping why that was a problem. "No," the supervisor cut in, trying to make Hill understand. "It's as big as a truck." Hill went to the levee where the supervisor called from and found not one but two pythons. Soon he had a new job title — invasive species technician — and authorization to carry a weapon. Sometimes he finds pythons by spotting game trails in the underbrush. Sometimes he does it by knowing where they like to sun themselves on cold days or where they go when the water is high. Sometimes he just catches a whiff of their musky odor. "Once you smell it, you don't forget it," he said. So instead of dispatching more than 1,000 amateurs into the sawgrass, why not hire a bunch more Bobby Hills? "It's difficult for us to staff more than what we've got," said Hill's boss, Dan Thayer. Hill says he's got one grandson who may follow in his footsteps in a few years. Until then he's the state's only professional python slayer. "You better not leave me," Thayer told him last week. By Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer News, Environment, Wildlife, breaking-news Florida's greatest python slayer is a great-grandpa with a shotgun CPITTMANN Bobby Hill has killed more of the snakes than anyone.<br /><br /> 4STA Main dhwfwqszskpp dhwfw Everglades pythons, beware of this man Miami 6 pythonside020913 Everglades pythons, beware of this man 2013-02-09 05:00:00.0 UTC 2013-02-09T00:00:00.000-05:00 2 Terry Burge, left, and Bobby Hill show off the skin of a python Hill caught while patrolling levees for the South Florida Water Management District. Hill, now 61, is the only water agency employee permitted to carry a weapon. With his extensive knowledge of the landscape, he&#8217;s able to find snakes where others see nothing at all, and he&#8217;s become a valuable expert on python behavior for scientists. resources/images/dti/2013/02/SP_365866_HO_pythonkiller02_10263311.jpg South Florida Water Management District resources/images/dti/rendered/2013/02/SP_365866_HO_pythonkiller02_10263311_4col.jpgresources/images/dti/rendered/2013/02/SP_365866_HO_pythonkiller02_10263311_8col.jpg 1 Bobby Hill shows off a 16.5-footer he caught on the L-67 extension levee in western Miami-Dade County. resources/images/dti/2013/02/0430409038_10262154.jpg South Florida Water Management District (2009) resources/images/dti/rendered/2013/02/0430409038_10262154_4col.jpgresources/images/dti/rendered/2013/02/0430409038_10262154_8col.jpg true templatedata/tampabaytimes/StaffArticle/data/2013/02/08/102995994-floridas-greatest-python-slayer-is-a-great-grandpa-with-a-shotgun StaffArticle news,environmentEnvironmental NewsOn the day the great Florida Python Challenge kicked off last month, a huge crowd of would-be snake slayers milled around, some of them trailed by the cameras from reality television shows.News, Environment, Wildlife, breaking-newsNews, Environment, Wildlife, breaking-newsCraig Pittman 381007 2038-01-18 05:00:00.0 UTC 2038-01-18T00:00:00.000-05:00 2012-10-25 12:33:04.0 UTC 2012-10-25T08:33:04.000-04:00 craig-pittman published Craig Pittman <p><i>Tampa Bay Times</i> reporter Craig Pittman is a native Floridian. He graduated from Troy State University in Alabama, where his muckraking work for the student paper prompted an agitated dean to label him "the most destructive force on campus." Since then he has covered a variety of newspaper beats and quite a few natural disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and the Florida Legislature. Since 1998 he has reported on environmental issues for the <i>Times</i>. He is a four-time winner of the <a href=" http://masscom.usf.edu/services/waldo/">Waldo Proffitt Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism in Florida</a> and <a href=" http://www.sptimes.com/2005/webspecials05/wetlands/">a series of stories on Florida's vanishing wetlands</a> that he wrote with Matthew Waite won the top investigative reporting award in both 2006 and 2007 from the Society of Environmental Journalists. He is the author of four books: <a href=" http://www.amazon.com/Scent-Scandal-Betrayal-Beautiful-Florida/dp/0813039746"> "The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid"</a> (2012); <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Manatee-Insanity-Floridas-Endangered-Species/dp/0813034620/ref=la_B001JS8EZU_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1352503712&sr=1-2">"Manatee Insanity: Inside the War Over Florida's Most Famous Endangered Species,"</a> (2010); and, co-written with Waite, <a href=" http://www.amazon.com/Paving-Paradise-Floridas-Vanishing-Wetlands/dp/0813032865">"Paving Paradise: Florida's Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss,"</a> (2009). His new book, < a href="http://www.amazon.com/Oh-Florida-Americas-Weirdest-Influences-ebook/dp/B019CB3UNQ"> "Oh, Florida! How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country,"</a>hits stores in July 2016. He lives in St. Petersburg with his wife and two children.</p> Times Staff Writer writers DTI 33745076 Tampa Bay Times reporter Craig Pittman is a native Floridian. He graduated from Troy State University in Alabama, where his muckraking work for the student paper prompted an agitated dean to label him "the most destructive force on campus." Since then he has covered a variety of newspaper beats and quite a few natural disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and the Florida Legislature. Since 1998 he has reported on environmental issues for the Times. He is a four-time winner of the Waldo Proffitt Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism in Florida and a series of stories on Florida's vanishing wetlands that he wrote with Matthew Waite won the top investigative reporting award in both 2006 and 2007 from the Society of Environmental Journalists. He is the author of four books: "The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid" (2012); "Manatee Insanity: Inside the War Over Florida's Most Famous Endangered Species," (2010); and, co-written with Waite, "Paving Paradise: Florida's Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss," (2009). His new book, "Oh, Florida! How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country,"hits stores in July 2016. He lives in St. Petersburg with his wife and two children. <p>Phone: (727) 893-8530</p><p>Email: <a href="mailto:craig@tampabay.com ">craig@tampabay.com</a> </p><p>Twitter: <a href="http://twitter.com/craigtimes">@CraigTimes</a></p> 1 WEB ONLY -- don't use for print. Times staffer Craig Pittman sig shot. /resources/images/dti/2016/03/Pittman_Craig_16811038.jpg true templatedata/tampabaytimes/AuthorProfile/data/33745076-craig-pittman AuthorProfile 2012-10-25 12:33:04.0 UTC 2012-10-25T08:33:04.000-04:00 <span style="display:none;" class="author vcard"><span class="fn">CRAIG PITTMAN</span></span><span style="display:none;" class="source-org vcard"><span class="org fn">Tampa Bay Times</span></span><a rel="item-license" href="/universal/user_agreement.shtml">&#169; 2016 Tampa Bay Times</a><br /><br />Times Staff Writer 2262835 2016-01-26 17:50:10.0 UTC 7 Months Ago 61-pythons-caught-so-far-in-floridas-python-challenge news/environment/wildlife 61 pythons caught so far in Florida's 'Python Challenge' StaffArticle 2262765 2016-01-26 02:59:28.0 UTC 7 Months Ago video-florida-wildlife-officers-kill-nearly-17-foot-burmese-python news/environment/wildlife Video: Florida wildlife officers kill nearly 17-foot Burmese python StaffArticle 2262496 2016-01-23 01:06:42.0 UTC 7 Months Ago 39-pythons-caught-so-far-in-floridas-public-snake-hunt news/environment/wetlands 39 pythons caught so far in Florida's public snake hunt StaffArticle <p>On the day the great Florida Python Challenge kicked off last month, a huge crowd of would-be snake slayers milled around, some of them trailed by the cameras from reality television shows. </p> <p>Nobody paid much attention to the beefy man with a thick beard who was quietly wandering around observing everything. But they should have. </p> <p>Most of the 1,500 hunters who signed up for the Python Challenge never saw a single snake. Meanwhile, Bobby Hill, 61 and a great-grandfather, has killed more pythons in the Everglades than anyone in the world. He didn't sign up for the Python Challenge because hunting snakes is his job.</p> <p>Over the past nine years, he has killed some 300 pythons, mostly by blasting them with his 12-gauge Winchester 1400. He has collected another 400 that were run over.</p> <p>&quot;He's incredible,&quot; said Frank Mazzotti, the University of Florida biologist overseeing the science end of the Python Challenge. &quot;You'll walk by a spot and not see anything, and he'll stop because he knows something is there.&quot; </p> <p>The key to his success, according to Larry Perez, author of Snake in the Grass: An Everglades Invasion, is Hill's extensive knowledge of the Florida landscape.</p> <p>Hill was born in the town he still calls &quot;Miam-uh,&quot; and grew up hunting, trapping and fishing at a camp his father built in the 1950s in the Big Cypress Swamp. In 1973 he began working for the South Florida Water Management District, doing such work as mowing rights of way and spraying herbicide in the canals. One day in 2004, he got a maintenance call unlike any he'd ever gotten before. </p> <p>&quot;I found a snake,&quot; a supervisor told him over the radio.</p> <p>&quot;Okay,&quot; Hill said, not grasping why that was a problem.</p> <p>&quot;No,&quot; the supervisor cut in, trying to make Hill understand. &quot;It's as big as a truck.&quot;</p> <p>Hill went to the levee where the supervisor called from and found not one but two pythons. Soon he had a new job title — invasive species technician — and authorization to carry a weapon. Sometimes he finds pythons by spotting game trails in the underbrush. Sometimes he does it by knowing where they like to sun themselves on cold days or where they go when the water is high. Sometimes he just catches a whiff of their musky odor.</p> <p>&quot;Once you smell it, you don't forget it,&quot; he said.</p> <p>So instead of dispatching more than 1,000 amateurs into the sawgrass, why not hire a bunch more Bobby Hills? &quot;It's difficult for us to staff more than what we've got,&quot; said Hill's boss, Dan Thayer.</p> <p>Hill says he's got one grandson who may follow in his footsteps in a few years. Until then he's the state's only professional python slayer. &quot;You better not leave me,&quot; Thayer told him last week.</p>trueruntime2016-08-30 05:45:55