Miami-Dade County

The Python Invasion Project: Meet the hunters

Everglades National Park doesn't allow any hunting, not even for Burmese pythons, which are quickly spreading and eating their way across the Everglades.

In this week’s video snippet of The Python Invasion, meet the authorized agents. They are people allowed by Everglades National Park to scour the landscape for snakes by foot or boat, capture them by hand, and turn them over to the authorities. Just don't call them hunters.

"We don't have hunting here in Everglades National Park, so what we've done is, under our management policies, we have 30 authorized agents, people who volunteer within the park, and they go out and help us find pythons," said Dan Kimball, former Everglades National Park superintendent.

One of the current authorized agents is Tom Rahill, founder of an organization called Swamp Apes, which takes military veterans returning from combat areas such as Iraq or Afghanistan to search for pythons.

Rahill said the experience of searching for massive snakes gives the veterans, who are sometimes struggling with post traumatic stress disorder, a way to cope.

"I went in the Everglades deep in 2008 to solve that aching heart that I had," Rahill said in a recent interview.

In the eighth installment of The Python Invasion -- outtakes of feature-length documentary that will broadcast on WPBT2 later in the year -- Rahill shares his motivations for braving the difficult terrains of the Glades.

One Florida lawmaker, Frank Artiles, R-Miami, said the policy prohibiting hunting in the national park should be changed to allow hunting for invasive species.

"Right now, [Everglades National Park] is a habitat of protectionism for invasive species," Artiles said in a recent interview.

Kimball said that the park is considering expanding the authorized agent program to intensify the pressure on the destructive pythons. But funding limitations make it difficult.

Oscar Corral is the founder and president of Explica Media, and the director and producer of The Python Invasion. Follow him on Twitter @ojcorral.