Environment

Python vs. gator: A trapper steps in to save a life in the Everglades

Florida trapper helps rescue alligator from python’s grip

Trapper Mike Kimmel saved an alligator from the attack of a 10-foot python in the Everglades on Saturday. This is the third alligator he's personally rescued from the invasive species.
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Trapper Mike Kimmel saved an alligator from the attack of a 10-foot python in the Everglades on Saturday. This is the third alligator he's personally rescued from the invasive species.

A 10-foot python was about to eat a 4-foot alligator when a Florida man came to the rescue.

In the swamps of the Everglades, under the cover of darkness, the snake began to suffocate the gator by constricting it. That's when snake hunter Mike Kimmel saw the snake and came to the gator's rescue.

The professional trapper was driving on a road near Everglades Holiday Park, west of Pembroke Pines, on Saturday with friend Jack Hubbard when the two spotted the python in the bushes by the water's edge. As they approached it, they realized it was wrapped around an alligator.

The python was trying to suffocate its prey before eating it. But Kimmel stepped in and grabbed the snake by the head. He removed it from the water still coiled around its fellow reptile.

The moment was recorded in a video taken by Hubbard and posted on the trapper's Facebook page.

When the snake was raised, it released its hold on the alligator. The gator — whose jaw was open, apparently trying to breathe —managed to sneak away and disappear into the water. But the snake, face to face with snake hunter, didn't go free.

Kimmel told the Miami Herald that these huge snakes feast on Everglades wildlife.

"Now they are eating more and more alligators. I personally rescued three alligators last year from being killed by pythons," said Kimmel, owner of Martin County Trapping and Removals and Martin County Wildlife Rescue. He also is a contractor for the snake removal program run by the South Florida Water Management District.

Snakes and gators have fought to the death before.

In one of the most bizarre clashes of Everglades wildlife, a 13-foot Burmese python and a 6-foot American alligator both wound up dead more than a decade ago. The snake had swallowed the gator whole — and the snake's gut exploded. It wasn't a pretty sight, but one that had scientists eager for answers.

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The carcasses of a Burmese python and an American alligator found in 2005 in Everglades National Park provide compelling questions for scientists. MICHAEL BARRON Everglades National Park / Miami Herald File

Last week, a 25-foot python swallowed a woman whole as she was checking on her corn crop in Indonesia.

Pythons are believed to have been introduced to South Florida through the exotic pet trade and have become the main predators in the Everglades, displacing alligators at the top of the food chain. Kimmel said that beyond the exotic pet trade, Hurricane Andrew in 1992 played a huge part in the invasive species drama.

"The exotic reptile trade was big at the time and breeding facilities in Miami had hundreds of pythons and other exotic reptiles," Kimmel said. Hurricane Andrew destroyed them because pythons got out — pregnant ones and breeding pairs.

"It was the perfect storm," he said.

The snake removal program by the water management district is helping combat the invasive species.

"Just in the past year we have removed over 1,070 pythons from the Everglades, including pythons close to 20 feet long," Kimmel said. "Myself and the other SFWMD python hunters work tirelessly every week to try and protect the Everglades. I will hunt for over 12 hours a night and stay in the swamp for days at a time."

Kimmel explained the process that the pythons undergo after being caught.

"Before I leave the park, I euthanize each python using the most humane method defined by the state of Florida," Kimmel said. "After I turn the pythons into the state, they pay me a bounty depending on size, record data, etc. and then return the pythons to me. I personally clean each one, sell the skin for leather products and make use of the meat as well ... nothing goes to waste."

The trapper said the python problem won't ever go away.

"We have to focus on controlling the issue and maintaining the spread."

A compilation video showing some of Florida’s gators and pythons in action.

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