Throughout many cultures around the world, snakes are often seen as both cunning and sinister. Some obvious examples include the Bible where a serpent, who in some versions is a manifestation of the Devil himself, tempts Eve to eat the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge resulting in her and Adam’s banishment from the Garden of Eden. Then in one of the Twelve Labors that the Greek hero Heracles (or Hercules in Roman mythology) had to perform, he had to slay a serpent that guarded a tree which produced golden apples. But what is it about snakes themselves that makes people so afraid of them to the point of depicting them in this manner?
The simple answer is just the way they look, being creepy legless creatures that slither along the ground with scaly skin that’s strange to the touch. Plus, there are plenty of snakes out there that can be dangerous to humans for a variety of reasons. Though arguably one of the most dangerous ones out there is the python, since it's capable of swallowing prey whole after strangling the life out of it. Pythons have also become quite a nuisance in Florida, resulting in many people hunting them down which the National Geographic series Python Hunters covers in great detail with some real examples of it outlined in this article.
25 “Indian python” - Three-Meter Snake
Before we go into the details of python hunting, let us get to know the pythons first. As the above picture shows, they can grow to great lengths with this specimen in particular being about three meters long. However, some have been known to grow longer than that. Also, this snake can swim as we see the python wriggling its way through either a creek or large puddles of water. While the water appears to be shallow, that doesn’t mean it can’t swim through deeper waters since they have been seen in the Florida Everglades which mainly consists of swamps.
24 “Florida Announces Expanded Python Hunt” - Open Season
Following the Python Challenge 2013, there was another one hosted three years later by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as well. But this time, they made plans to “Expand the hunt across Everglades National Park and other public land areas” according to OutdoorHub. The reason for this was to have a better chance at catching more pythons than during the previous challenge, since the infestation problem was still continuing by that point. Then the year before this challenge, “More than 1,500 hunters swarmed state lands to hunt the snakes, but only harvested a mere 68 pythons” OutdoorHub says.
23 “Florida Python Challenge” - Just a Sample of the Catch
While a majority of the participants in the python challenges that the FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) hosts are a mixture of amateurs and professionals, the authorities participate in the hunt as well. For instance, in the 2016 Python Challenge, an officer of the FWC was able to catch a pretty sizable specimen. According to NBC2 News, it was nearly seventeen feet in length which the officer caught while he was “Patrolling in the Everglades”. With that said, it’s hard to tell which of the men in the above picture is the officer who’s responsible for the catch.
22 “Florida python hunters hit new milestone” - Miles O'Snakes!
In the present day, the python infestation problem still persists as the hunts for them continue. Just this year, for instance, “More than 1,700 snakes” were caught according to the Miami Herald. To put that in layman’s terms, that’s about two miles’ worth of snakes. Now this “Does not include snakes caught in the epicenter of the invasion in Everglades National Park,” the Miami Herald says, but that’s still an impressively large number all things considered. The main reasons why there are so many pythons has to do with the environment, and the females typically laying large batches of eggs.
21 “Invasive Pythons Can Find Home 20 Miles Away” - Pretty Close
Of the various species of pythons out there, one of longest ones is the Burmese Python. With the ability to grow up to approximately "18.8 feet (5.7 meters) long" according to the National Geographic Society Newsroom, they are the main species that have invaded the Florida Everglades over the past two centuries. Believed to have been exotic pets that got loose after being imported from Southeast Asia where they are originally from, these snakes weren’t noticed until the 1980s. But it wasn’t till the beginning of the Twenty-First century that they were considered a thriving species in the Everglades.
20 “Catching snakes in the Everglades with Donna Kalil” - One of the Few Female Snake Hunters
Among the various snake hunters that have taken up the Herculean task of ridding the Florida Everglades of its python infestation, there have arisen a few celebrities that have gotten more attention than the others. This includes Donna Kalil, who is “One of the few women paid by the Florida government” to hunt down the Burmese Pythons according to the Miami News Times. Because hunting in general is commonly associated with men, it’s considered unusual to see women partaking in such an activity. Snake-hunting is no different, so Kalil’s skills are underestimated by the public Miami News Times says.
19 “Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay chows down on Everglades python” - True Kitchen Nightmares
Of all the celebrity chefs in the world, Gordon Ramsay is arguably one of the most universally recognized due to his tendency to curse a lot when critiquing food made by sub-par restaurants or amateur chefs on the various shows he hosts on the Food Network. Then last year, the foul-mouthed chef jumped on the bandwagon of media attention that’s been given to the Florida Everglades and decided to film an episode there for his show The F Word with Gordon Ramsay. According to the website of the talk show TODAY, he helped capture and cook Burmese Pythons.
18 “Snake City” - Get Samuel L. Jackson on the Phone!
As bad as the situation in the Florida Everglades is, at least the infestation is in the wilderness as opposed to an urban area. The latter scenario is unfortunately the case for the city of Durban, South Africa, which gets infested with snakes during the summer months. The main reasons for this are South Africa’s high temperatures, and the dispersal of trash during storms have led to an increase in rodents which is common prey for snakes according to Siouxsie Gillett who along with Simon Keys (pictured above) host the documentary series Snake City as stated by the Highway Mail.
17 “African Rock Pythons” - Not a Great Pet
Once it was taken into custody, the snake that attacked the two boys in Canada was identified as an African Rock Python. Like the Burmese, this one can grow to great lengths as well. While the specimen from Canada was about “14 to 16 feet” according to National Geographic, they can reach twenty feet. As the name implies, they are native to the African continent. Though in particular, the Sub-Saharan region where it preys on various animals. Yet they “Have attacked people” and don’t make great pets because National Geographic says they “Can't be easily tamed like other snakes”.
16 “Photos of Burmese python” - Looks Full
While Burmese Pythons have the same strangling capabilities as African Rock ones, they’re not as badas the other species. However, the main reason they’re a big problem in the Florida Everglades is because they’ve not only significantly multiplied but also tend to eat just about anything. Because of this, they’ve disrupted the ecosystem of the Everglades resulting in the decreasing populations of many other native species of animals. This even includes deer, as an eleven foot python was found with one inside it in 2015 according to Fox News. While the snake itself was relocated, it was eventually euthanized.
15 “The Python Trackers” - Not as Cool as Hunters
So with a better understanding of the python species that have been causing the most trouble in the world, let us concentrate on how they’re studied in the wild. Though for researchers at universities as well as professional trackers, snakes in general are difficult to keep track of since their long narrow bodies can’t be fitted with tracking collars or tags like other animals and “They leave virtually no trace of their prey” behind for observation according to Naples Daily News. So researchers have to put tracking devices inside snakes via surgery and examine their diets through the same method.
14 “Burmese Python Florida Bounty” - Round ‘Em Up!
While some python hunters are given a payroll, others get paid through contracts offered by Florida’s government. The average amount that these hunters make, according to AOL News, is “$8.10 hourly” plus “Monthly bonuses based on the size of the snakes they capture”. So given how big Burmese pythons can get, along with African Rock Pythons which have also invaded the Florida Everglades due to careless pet owners, one might imagine those bonuses must be generous. According to the Sun-Sentinel, “Hunters get a $50 bonus for every python measuring at least 4 feet, with $25 for each foot beyond”.
13 “Florida hunters catch massive 15-foot Burmese python” - Lucky
Among the various programs that Florida has created to both control the population of and raise awareness of invasive pythons, there is one called the Everglades Python Challenge. In it, “25 people were commissioned by the South Florida Water Management District” to deal with as many Burmese Pythons as possible in a 60-day period according to Elite Readers. While it is unclear if Crum participated in this one or not, there were other hunters that rose to fame. Namely, a pair of snake trappers named Nicholas Banos and Leonardo Sanchez who caught a fifteen foot python Elite Readers says.
12 “Snake hunters capture a monstrous 17-foot, 132-pound python” - Takes Four Men to Hold
While the size of the python that Banos and Sanchez caught is impressive in of itself, it didn’t set a record size-wise in relation to the pythons that have been caught. That credit goes to Jason Leon, who’s standing on the far right next to the other three men in the above picture, as he managed to catch a python last year that measured seventeen feet long according to ABC News. At the time, it was considered to be largest specimen caught since Florida initiated its government-sponsored program to deal with the python infestation which is very impressive.
11 “15-Foot Python Discovered Hiding Inside Man’s Living Room Wall” - They’re Everywhere!
Apart from having “Surprising navigation skills” that allow them to find their homes from many miles away, the National Geographic Society Newsroom says, Burmese Pythons tend to spend most of their time either hiding or eating. Now this doesn’t apply to just Burmese Pythons, as other snakes exhibit these kinds of behavior as well. For instance, a python measuring fifteen feet long was found inside the wall of a man’s house in Thailand earlier this year as reported by the International Business Times. How it got there in the first place is a mystery, let alone what species it was.
10 “Sleeping Boys” - Keep One Eye Open
Despite their enormous size, pythons can be surprisingly sneaky as the python story from Thailand demonstrated. But while the man was able to hear the python in the wall before calling the authorities to remove it, some people aren’t so lucky. In 2013, National Geographic reported a story about a python that escaped from an exotic pet store beneath an apartment building in Brunswick, Canada. Instead of leaving the building altogether, the snake made its way into one of the apartments above the store where two young boys were sleeping. Following their demise, the python was captured by the police.
9 “This 14-foot python was caught with 3 deer” - Bad Luck
If the notion that a python is capable of preying on deer isn’t disturbing enough, then how about one that preyed upon three at the same time? Such a thing occurred in 2016, according to Vox, which involved a python measuring fourteen feet long. Now this has never happened, or at least been recorded before, among the invasive pythons in the Florida Everglades until now. But the implications of such an act has got many scientists worried, including Bob McCleery from the University of Florida who thinks, “It suggests there’s little limit” to a python’s diet as stated by Vox.
8 “Snake Caught In Hilo Near Landfill” - Unknown Species
Though it’s assumed those who hunt snakes have to bring in a deceased specimen, that isn’t always the case. Even if they bring a live one, a hunter can still get paid. In fact, most snakes tend to get caught alive rather than not because while they might be labeled as pests they still have to be identified because if they’re a protected species that makes it illegal to do away with them. But in the case of the snake in the above picture, it was “Tentatively identified as a non-venomous ball python” according to Big Island Video News.
7 “For Goodness Snakes” - Python Hunters-for-Hire
Now given how difficult it is for those who study snakes to track them down, imagine what snake hunters have to deal with. Yet when there’s a lot of money involved, people will do anything. Because the situation with the Burmese Pythons in Florida is so bad, the South Florida Water Management District “Hired 24 men and one woman” to find and eliminate the snakes-in-question last year according to WLRN. But what makes this story particularly interesting for many news outlets is that these hunters are being put on a payroll as opposed to being paid via contracts.
6 “Dusty ‘Wildman’ Crum catches 50th python in landmark snake hunt” - So Many
Another celebrity hunter that has become famous since the infestation of pythons in Florida became big news is a man named Dusty ‘Wildman’ Crum. An orchid dealer by trade, according to WeatherPlus, he “Was lauded by the South Florida Water Management District for catching the 50th invasive python in a population control experiment” last year. Though he’s not the man in the above picture, Crum’s accomplishment is still quite significant given the magnitude of the situation. In addition, one of the pythons that Crum caught during the extension of Florida's snake bounty program was roughly fourteen feet long WeatherPlus states.
5 “18-foot Burmese python removed from Everglades” - No Tree of Knowledge for This Snake
As stated earlier, Burmese Pythons can get up to approximately eighteen feet. So the specimen Leon caught last year was just one foot short of that. Then earlier this year, a man by the name of John Hammond managed to capture a Burmese Python that measured the maximum length the species can get. As a result, he now takes credit for holding the “Biggest Burmese python captured in the state” according to Fox News. Now because Hammond was participating in the South Florida Water Management District program to eliminate pythons, he had to hand his specimen over to the authorities.
4 “Florida man nabs python” - Quite the Feat!
Of the celebrity hunters who’ve arisen since the python infestation in Florida became big news, one of the more interesting ones has got to be Carlos Lopez-Cantera. While he mainly works as Florida’s Lieutenant Governor, he’s also gone out of his way to hunt down the invasive pythons alongside the other hunters. Then last year, he managed to catch a fifteen foot specimen, according to Adventure Sports Network, as the above picture shows. This in turn further emphasizes how bad things are in Florida if even government officials are going out and catching pythons to get rid of them.
3 “OL’MAN Outdoors” - Almost a Perfect Pair
Now even though the South Florida Water Management District (or SFWMD for short) put together a special government-sponsored program to deal with the python infestation last year, there were other venues for hunting pythons legally beforehand in the form of challenges. For instance, there was one called the Python Challenge 2013 named after the year it was hosted. Organized by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (aka the FWC), according to OL’MAN Outdoors, it lasted four weeks in total with the prizes being that, “Those who bag the most snakes get $1,500” while “The biggest snake nets $1,000”.
2 “Python Hunters Endorse Thermal Drones in the Everglades” - Predator Vision
Because the Everglades are protected by the government, there’s only so much area that python hunters can cover. Plus, the land itself is difficult to navigate through due to being marshy and full of other dangerous creatures besides pythons such as alligators. So last year, a snake hunter named Bill Booth got together with Bart Bruni who studies thermography (which is basically the distribution of heat). Then according to the Miami New Times, they “Teamed up with VolAero, a Miami-based drone-tech startup,” to look for pythons “Using infrared thermal-tracking drones” which might revolutionize python-hunting in general.
1 “Miami-Dade Requests Help Removing Burmese Pythons From Everglades” - Bigger than They Imagined
Despite the efforts that these government-sponsored hunts have done to eliminate invasive pythons, they’ve barely stopped the tide of Burmese and African Python species which have now established themselves as the dominant predator of the Everglades. So in December of this year, a resolution was pitched to Florida’s State Legislature to “Provide more funding for existing efforts to capture Burmese pythons” according to the Miami New Times. This comes at a time when these pythons are not only spreading territory-wise, but also with the discovery of a new hybrid species that has Burmese and Indian Rock Python DNA.
Resources: news.nationalgeographic.com, blog.nationalgeographic.org, ibtimes.com, naplesnews.com, aol.com, sun-sentinel.com, bigislandvideonews.com, foxnews.com, vox.com, today.com, abcnews.go.com, olmanoutdoors.blogspot.com, adventuresportsnetwork.com