Striking back against invasive pythons in Florida

Python elimination program yielding results

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla - Two dozen python hunters are outnumbered by the thousands of pythons slithering through the Everglades, but they are making a difference.

"Some people like the city and the movies, I like the Everglades," said Kyle Penniston. He's one of the 25 hunters licensed by the South Florida Water Management District to track down and kill invasive Burmese Pythons.

Though pythons aren't venomous, they have a voracious appetite, and have been known to gobble up anything from deer to alligators.

"When I was younger, maybe 8, 9 years old, my dad started taking me out to the Everglades," said Penniston. I'd see so many foxes, rabbits, I'd see all kinds of wildlife. Now-a-days, it's very rare to see a possum."

Kyle captured an 8-foot python in western Miami-Dade county May 5th, but the python problem is affecting South Florida from coast to coast.

Almost a year ago, an Collier County man caught one swallowing one of his pet goats, he shot it while it was in the middle of its meal.

Since 2005, there have been python sightings recorded from Lehigh Acres all the way to Greater Miami.

"It's their fault, they didn't ask to come here they didn't get a ticket, they didn't drive here, they are here because of people," Kyle said of the snakes.

Kyle says the pet trade is to blame for the population boom, making matters worse, in 1992, Hurricane Andrew destroyed a python breeding facility, sending more snakes slithering into the wild.

"You're never going to get every single python, it's just not a possibility because it's a vast area."

But Kyle says the South Florida Water Management District's python elimination program is making a dent in the population.

The program, which started in March 2017 is closing in on 1,000 kills. That number is low when you consider how many eggs were taken.

"Also around 2500 eggs have been removed as well."

Kyle says although there is a long way to go, he's seen some native wildlife come back in certain areas of the Everglades.

He's happy to be part of the solution to the python problem. "It's better to be out here trying to do something, than sitting at home on your couch."

Python hunting is forbidden within the boundaries of Everglades National Park, but Congressman Francis Rooney is working with the Trump Administration to make an exception.

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