WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - The South Florida Water Management District has announced hunters have now eliminated 1,000 Burmese pythons since the inception of their Python Elimination Program last year.
Hunter Brian Hargrove caught the 1,000th python early Saturday morning, according to SFWMD.
That python measured up to be 11 feet and two inches long, and weighed 32 pounds.
Hargrove has been the program’s most prolific hunter since it started in March 2017, bringing in more than 110 of the invasive species.
“We hired 25 experienced python hunters and gave them unprecedented access to our lands down here,” said Mike Kirkland, an invasive animal biologist with SFWMD.
The program pays each professional, licensed python hunter $8.25 an hour to hunt in the Everglades and euthanize each snake they catch in the field. Hunters can also get an additional $50 for pythons measuring up to four feet, and an extra $25 for each foot measured beyond four feet. The longest python caught measured at 17 feet, 1 inch long. The program also awards $200 for the elimination of python nests with eggs.
It’s all part of the SFWMD’s effort to eradicate the invasive Burmese python, which breeds rapidly and has no natural predator in the Everglades. The species has decimated native populations of wildlife, the district said.
“They have been going after mammals, possums, wading birds, fish. Anything that crosses their path is fair game for them,” Kirkland said. “We’ve seen recently one that was consuming white-tailed deer in Collier County.”
Hargrove, a self-proclaimed animal lover, said hunting the pythons brings on mixed emotions.
“It’s exciting to find it, but the end result is sad,” he said. “It’s something that has to be done.”
Another hunter brought in a pregnant python which was filled with 34 eggs.
“A lot of the females we have caught have been gravid with eggs, so not only have we removed over 1,000 snakes from the Everglades, but we’ve prevented tens of thousands of new pythons from being born into the system,” said Kirkland.
Due to the program’s success, there are plans to continue it in the future, officials said.
Copyright 2018 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.