Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Ron DeSantis takes aim at Florida’s pythons

Florida’s governor pledges to double funds for python removal this year and said the state will work with the federal government to expand access to Big Cypress National Preserve so that hunters can catch more snakes.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis posses for photos with a python along with representatives from the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Agriculture, biologists and environmental advocates after a press conference to announce the doubling of efforts to hunt down pythons in remote areas of Big Cypress National Preserve at Everglades Holiday Park in Fort Lauderdale Wednesday afternoon. [Tribune News Service]
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis posses for photos with a python along with representatives from the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Agriculture, biologists and environmental advocates after a press conference to announce the doubling of efforts to hunt down pythons in remote areas of Big Cypress National Preserve at Everglades Holiday Park in Fort Lauderdale Wednesday afternoon. [Tribune News Service]
Published Aug. 8, 2019
Updated Aug. 8, 2019

Florida’s python patrol, which has notched nearly 3,000 captures of the exotic invader in two years, is about to get bigger.

Gov. Ron DeSantis pledged Wednesday to double funds for python removal this year and said the state will work with the federal government to expand access to Big Cypress National Preserve so that hunters can catch more snakes.

``We have been advancing python management policies for several years and there’s been some success but we need to do more,’’ DeSantis said today at Everglades Holiday Park in Fort Lauderdale. He didn’t disclose the new budget for the snake elimination efforts.

Burmese pythons pose a huge threat to the Everglades ecosystem as they permeate the marshes, devouring wading bird eggs, small mammals and even alligators. For nearly two decades Pythons have been successful at reproducing in the wetlands because they have no predators. Females can lay up to 100 eggs a year.

Pythons first appeared in the Everglades in 1979 but the population only started to grow in the early 2000s. Some speculate that pythons that were kept as pets were released by frustrated owners and started breeding in the wild. Others say the infestation began after Hurricane Andrew smashed into a breeding facility in 1992.

Whatever the origin of Florida’s python problem, the slithery invaders’ numbers have grown exponentially ever since, to as many as an estimated 300,000. They are now considered the top predator at the Everglades, capable of devouring adult deer and blamed for nearly wiping out the population of small mammals in Everglades National Park.

For years, wildlife managers struggled to contain the snakes with traps and poisoned prey. In recent years, state officials have offered incentives for snake hunters, paying people for their catch.

In March 2017 the South Florida Water Management District launched a python elimination program that has been wildly successful among trappers. The program has eliminated nearly 3,000 pythons, with hunters getting paid a minimum wage hourly rate for up to 10 hours a day plus a bonus for the catch: $50 for each python measuring up to 4 feet plus $25 more for each foot measured above 4 feet. An additional $200 is paid for a nesting female. The district’s budget for the program this year is $225,000. It wasn’t immediately clear how much more money the state would devote to the program.

Python “agents” now mainly work on district lands in Miami-Dade, Broward, Collier, Hendry and Palm Beach counties.

DeSantis said it was important to expand access to more land in the state where trappers can catch pythons. He said details are currently being worked out with the Department of Interior for an access plan for python removal inside Big Cypress National Preserve, a vast swamp protecting over 729,000 acres of wetlands that are crucial for the survival of the Everglades.

``We are putting a lot of money into restoring the Everglades, we want to make sure that ecosystem is strong,’’ DeSantis said.

On a state and local level, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the Department of Agriculture agreed to allow for python removal to take place in all state parks where the snakes are found, adding 130,000 acres of land to snake hunting grounds. DeSantis also said he is asking local governments to grant access to local parks for python elimination.

Ron Bergeron, a longtime Everglades activist whom DeSantis named this year to a board seat at the water management district, said more people will be licensed to hunt pythons as efforts intensify. Bergeron, who calls himself Alligator Ron, recently caught a 16-foot female python — one of Florida’s largest ever, weighing more than 160 pounds - that was nesting beneath a home in Possum Head Camp with nearly 50 eggs.

Burmese pythons eat small endangered animals like the mangrove fox squirrel, the Key Largo woodrat, the wood stork, and the Key Largo cotton mouse, for example.

— ADRIANA BRASILEIRO


ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. State Rep. Adam Hattersley, D-Riverview, speaks before volunteers with the gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action outside the Florida Capitol on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. [[LAWRENCE MOWER | Tampa Bay Times]]
    Like it has since the Parkland massacre, the gun debate is growing fierce in Tallahassee. But there are some significant changes this year.
  2. West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James talks with his Director of Communications Kathleen Walter while going over the state of the city address in his office at the City of West Palm Beach municipal building in West Palm Beach, Florida on Wednesday, January 15, 2020.  [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James leads a city about the same the size as Buttigieg’s South Bend. Here’s what his day looks like. Is this presidential experience?
  3. The Florida Supreme Court, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. [SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    “Death is indeed different,” wrote the lone dissenting justice. “This Court has taken a giant step backward."
  4. State Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, presents legislation to create a new chapter of Florida law dedicated to parents' rights when dealing with government and other agencies, during a committee meeting Jan. 23, 2020. [The Florida Channel]
    Parents have been marginalized by bureaucracy, and need to be empowered in law, sponsor Rep. Erin Grall says.
  5. Wichita State Shockers center Jaime Echenique (21) and USF Bulls guard David Collins (0) battle for the loose ball during the second half at the Yuengling Center in Tampa on Tuesday. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    Lawmakers may require public colleges and universities to ask permission before selling naming rights.
  6. The Florida Capitol at the start of the legislative session on Jan. 14, 2020, in Tallahassee. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) [STEVE CANNON  |  AP]
    If the proposal is approved by the Senate, it would appear before voters in November.
  7. Robert Ray, a member of President Trump's defense team, arrives at the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. The U.S. Senate plunges into President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial with Republicans abruptly abandoning plans to cram opening arguments into two days but solidly rejecting for now Democratic demands for more witnesses to expose what they deem Trump’s “trifecta” of offenses. Trump himself claims he wants top aides to testify, but qualified that by suggesting there were “national security” concerns to allowing their testimony. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen) [CLIFF OWEN  |  AP]
    Trump reportedly wanted a star-studded team capable of performing on TV.
  8. Algae laps along the shoreline of the St. Lucie River in 2019, when heavy rains forced the release of tainted water from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries. The releases spawned massive blue-green algae blooms.
    Environmentalists say Florida faces a water quality crisis. But lawmakers are watering down rules to tackle fertilizer runoff.
  9. Former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum told a House committee that the state should change state law to limit cities and counties from filing lawsuits against corporations on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. [LAWRENCE MOWER | Tampa Bay Times]
    Former Attorney General Bill McCollum said “it’s a big mess.” Cities and counties disagree.
  10. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attends a protocolary meeting of the Permanent Council at the Organization of the American States, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Michael A. McCoy) [MICHAEL A. MCCOY  |  AP]
    The U.S. State Department wouldn’t comment on the official visit, except to say doors open to the public at 4 p.m.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement