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Everglades Python Hunter

Photographer: Erik S. Lesser

 

Non-native Burmese pythons have invaded the Everglades and surrounding areas of South Florida. The exotic snake, one of the largest snake species in the world, have been popular in the pet industry. But the snakes can reach 20 feet long and weigh more than 200 pounds. Pet owners have been known to release the snakes into the wild, where they quickly revert back to their natural state.

 

The Burmese pythons are voracious feeders and prey on the native wildlife species of the Everglades, including American alligators, raccoons, rabbits, bobcats and many different birds.

 

The true number of the highly adaptable non-native Burmese pythons in the Everglades and South Florida is unknown, but evidence gathered by the National Park Service and other biologists suggest the serpents are now reproducing in the wild. The Park Service and other agencies are concerned about the impact of the pythons on the delicate ecosystem and native species. The disruption of the natural food chain is of great concern to park officials.

 

Among the many control methods being utilized by the National Park Service and similar agencies in South Florida, is to allow people to hunt and capture the exotic snakes. Edward Mercer, 39, who owns seven snakes, including two pythons, is one of several permitted python hunters.

 

Mercer, who does not get paid to look for the snakes, enjoys doing his part by searching for Burmese pythons in the wild. He says enjoys the rush of finding and capturing the elusive, semi-aquatic snakes. He also looks for pythons in residential areas when contacted by concerned homeowners.

 

To date, Mercer has captured 26 Burmese pythons in the Everglades area, the largest of which was 12 feet long and weighing in at 43 pounds. More than 1,800 of the snakes have been removed from the park since 2002.