Florida’s efforts to round up invasive Burmese pythons has hit a new milestone: more than 1,700 snakes bagged, or enough to make a two-mile long python skin belt.
On a scale, the snake booty comes in at 10 tons.
The South Florida Water Management District, which oversees the hunt, announced the numbers on Friday, noting the total comes out to three snakes a day captured on state lands since March 2017. The number does not include snakes caught in the epicenter of the invasion in Everglades National Park, where snake hunting was allowed for the first time earlier this year.
“This program continues to be proven successful over time because of each and every dedicated member of the team,” project manager Mike Kirkland said in a statement, commending “the python hunters who work long nights to rid the Everglades of this snake.”
The district’s top hunter is Miami native Brian Hargrove, who has snagged 235 snakes and in May was feted for catching the program’s 1,000th python.
Florida has been battling the invasive snakes for at least a decade, when district maintenance worker Bob Hill was first called to deal with a snake slithering along the L-67 canal. Researchers believe the snakes were released into the marshes by frustrated pet owners or escaped a Miami-Dade breeding facility, or both, in the 1980s and ‘90s. They are now considered the Everglades top predator, and most voracious, capable of devouring deer and wading birds and blamed for nearly wiping out the population of small mammals in Everglades National Park.
The district’s snake team is made up of about 25 certified hunters picked from a pool of a thousand applicants. Hunters are paid $8.25 an hour, plus about $50 for snakes up to four feet long and $25 for each extra foot. Egg-bearing females pay out a $200 bonus.