Special Everglades python-hunting season created
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has announced the opportunity for hunters to access state-managed lands around the Everglades in order to capture and remove reptiles of concern.
The specially created season will take place March 8 to April 17, after the close of small game season in the Everglades and Francis S. Taylor, Holey Land, and Rotenberger wildlife management areas.
"We are once again engaging our stakeholders, in this case, the hunting community, to help us reduce the number of reptiles of concern in the Everglades," said FWC chairman Rodney Barreto. "Our hunters are on the front lines, and we hope, by tapping into their knowledge of the Everglades, we can make significant progress in this effort."
Hunters must possess a valid hunting license and pay a $26 management area permit fee to hunt the regions for pythons, green anaconda and Nile monitor lizards, all invasive species that are threatening native wildlife. The reptiles may not be removed from the wildlife management areas alive.
Before this announcement, only those with special reptile-of-concern permits were allowed to hunt for the snakes.
Florida is facing a troubling situation, believed to have been caused by snake owners who released pythons when they became too large to manage. The snakes, which are reproducing in the wild, have become a threat to native wildlife.
The National Park Service reported the removal of 311 Burmese pythons from the Everglades in 2008. The constrictors can measure 26 feet long and weigh more than 200 pounds. The largest captured in the Everglades was 16 feet and 150 pounds.
Wildlife officials say they could number in the tens of thousands in the South Florida region -- mostly in the Everglades.
-- Kelly Burgess