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Gov. Crist calls attention to Florida's python problem

TALLAHASSEE — The proliferation of pythons in Florida caught the attention Wednesday of Gov. Charlie Crist, who said capturing the giant creatures is a public safety issue.

Wildlife officials touted the captures of six snakes in the first two weeks of an eradication program. They added there may be more than 100,000 of them slithering through the saw grass of the Everglades, some of them up to 26 feet long. Most of them are in remote western Miami-Dade County and the Upper Keys.

Crist, conducting one of his occasional visits to agencies under his control, paid a call to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for an update on python population control.

"My greatest concern is for the people," Crist said.

The issue drew heightened attention after a pet Burmese python strangled a 2-year-old girl in Sumter County last month. Sen. Bill Nelson has proposed a federal ban on pythons as pets, and Crist's administration may ask the Legislature to ban Internet sales of pythons next year. This year, state officials floated the idea of offering a bounty on pythons.

Through Oct. 31, certified holders of "reptile of concern licenses" in Florida can capture pythons. They can sell the hide and meat but are not paid for their work.

Tim Breault, a species expert at the wildlife commission, said pythons are usually docile but pose a threat to native and endangered species.

One captured python ate a Key Largo woodrat, an endangered species, and the rat's radio collar was found inside the snake's remains.

"I guess the snake didn't know it was endangered," Crist said.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Gov. Crist calls attention to Florida's python problem 08/05/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 5, 2009 11:45pm]
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