Python hunt in Everglades
Interview with a reptile breeder/biologist.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will issue permits for capturing reptiles of concern on state-managed lands in South Florida, beginning in January. These permits will expire Dec. 31, 2010. Applications are available at MyFWC.com. Only qualified applicants will be issued the permits.
The first phase of this program began July 17 and ran through Oct. 31. The FWC issued 15 permits for capturing Burmese pythons and other reptiles of concern on specific state-managed lands in South Florida. Ten of the 15 permit holders actually made trips on the wildlife management areas, capturing a total of 39 Burmese pythons. No other reptiles of concern were found. For the 10 who made trips, their original permit has been extended through this month. They are eligible to apply for the new permit.
The permit period beginning Jan. 1 requires potential permit holders to be Florida residents and to have a reptile of concern permit, digital camera and a GPS unit. They also must have experience in capturing wild snakes, handling large constrictors, euthanizing reptiles and working in remote areas. The permit holders are required to photograph and mark GPS locations, photograph and describe stomach contents of euthanized snakes, file reports with the FWC within 36 hours of capture, and euthanize pythons onsite or transport live pythons to be euthanized at a location with veterinary facilities or deliver live pythons to a reptile of concern licensed recipient. Permit holders will be required to make at least five trips each calendar quarter. They also must visit each WMA at least twice during the year.
“We were able to collect some initial data during the first phase of this program that will help us determine the extent of the population on state-managed lands,” said Scott Hardin, the FWC’s exotic species section leader. “We want to continue allowing experts out there to ensure this exotic species does not spread any farther north in Florida.”
The permit holders may work any time outside hunting season and between sunset and sunrise during hunting season on Everglades and Francis S. Taylor WMA, Holey Land WMA, Rotenberger WMA and Southern Glades Wildlife and Environmental Area.
Burmese pythons are a nonnative species to Florida and to North America, but they have spread throughout the Everglades region, with populations in the thousands. All reptiles of concern may be taken under this permit, although in the first phase of the program, only Burmese pythons were found. Other reptiles of concern include Indian python, reticulated python, African rock python (both southern and northern), amethystine or scrub python, green anaconda and Nile monitor lizard.
Reptiles of concern may be kept as pets in Florida, but owners are required to have a reptile of concern permit from the FWC. The license costs $100 per year and mandates specific caging requirements. Reptiles of concern more than 2 inches in diameter must be implanted with a microchip that identifies the animal. It is unlawful to allow them to escape or to release them into the wild.
For the application and more information, visit MyFWC.com. If you have a reptile of concern you can no longer keep as a pet, call your local FWC regional office.