The Hunt for Burmese Pythons in Florida Yields Results

While on the hunt for pythons one chilly March morning in Florida, Mike Kimmel was about to pack it in and head home. Then he saw a python over on the levee. By Burmese python standards, it was not too big at 7 ft., but it ended up being a historic catch.


Mike caught the 2,000th Burmese python in the Florida Everglades that day.


In 2017, the South Florida Water Management District launched a landmark python elimination program that garnered worldwide attention. There are about 25 snake hunters paid by the hour to hunt, their time and location is monitored by GPS devices. Bonuses are paid based on the size of the invaders as well.


An added benefit of the hunters is they serve as land stewards, reporting poachers, vandalism, fires, and trespassers they see while working.


There were previous attempts to get rid of the snakes, like putting trackers on the females, training dogs to sniff them out, and hiring snake hunters from the Irula tribe in India. So far, hiring local hunters seems to have made the most progress.


Since the first discovery in 1979, the invasive species has menaced the ecosystem of the Everglades. Not knowing exactly how many snakes there are in the wild, it’s not easy to determine if the program is successful. In 2011, a study was conducted in Everglades National Park to see what effects the pythons had on the rabbit, raccoon, possum and deer populations. They found that it was reduced anywhere from 87 to 99 percent.


The reemergence of some small mammals to the area is a good indicator, though.


“I hadn’t seen a rabbit in the Everglades since last weekend. Raccoons, otters, marsh rabbits, they’re coming back,” said Kimmel in a recent interview with The Ledger, “We need to stick to what we’re doing and keep managing the python population the way we are to give our native wildlife a fighting chance.”

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