July 21, 2009—For the first time, Florida is allowing select hunters to kill pythons in the wild. The non-native snakes are believed to number in the tens of thousands and are killing endangered species, experts say.
© 2009 National Geographic (AP)
The state of Florida has issued permits to certain hunters allowing them to catch pythons, which are wreaking havoc with native flora and fauna in the Everglades National Park.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is allowing a few permitted snake experts to begin hunting, trapping and killing the snakes.
The python population in Florida and throughout the Everglades has exploded over the past decade- perhaps numbering as high as 150,000.
Large numbers of pythons escaped during Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and scientists believe some pet owners have freed their snakes once they became too big. And theyre a threat to endangered species.
SOUNDBITE (English) David Halleck, Biologist:
"This is a serious problem, and as you know the Everglades has a number of threatened and endangered species, federally listed and state listed. And we're trying to restore the Everglades and bring those species back. And here we have an invasive organism that's very effective at eating all the species that we're trying to restore."
An official with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the hunt is just the beginning of an eradication program.
SOUNDBITE (English) Rodney Barreto, Chairman, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:
"Once this thing's has a little value, someone's going to come together and figure out a trap, a bait, or something that's going to help us really eradicate this."
Burmese pythons are native to southeast Asia, but they survive easily in Florida's warm, moist climate.