South Florida Water Management District on Tuesday marked a milestone kill of pythons that have invaded the Everglades. The agency’s python elimination program has captured its 50th snake since it launched on March 25. The hunters broadcast the weigh-in of the 50th serpent caught on Facebook Live. The program ends June 1.
Hunter Dustin Crum of Myakka City captured a 14-foot Burmese python. Crum caught the massive snake near the Value Jet Crash Memorial in the Everglades.
"Yeah, I’m a snake catcher. I catch everything live, bare handed,” Crum said proudly.
He looks the part: a bearded, barefoot snake hunter who has been doing it for years. But, the super serpent was the second catch Monday. Minutes before, the first 14-footer, a no less impressive 10-footer was nabbed. Crum said it was the "grand girl" that put up the fight.
"Did a big pull and pulled him out. And, then it was striking, striking, ‘kinda’ dancing with the snake for a little while. Then, I finally got the head and he was all over of the place,” Crum recalled. The hunter said he got the snake’s small tooth stuck in his finger.
"I thought it was a splinter and I started picking it out and ended up being a python tooth,” the hunter said.
The two captures netted Crum $525. The elimination program pays $50 for the first four feet of snake and $25 for each additional foot.
The agency picked 25 licensed hunters out of 1,000 applicants. Randy Smith with the South Florida Water Management District says it's a necessary hunt -- of an invasive species that's destroying the ecosystem.
"They basically have eliminated a majority of wildlife that was natural for the Everglades, because they have insatiable appetites and no predators,” explained Smith.
No one knows for sure, but the number of pythons slithering the Everglades estimate from 10,000 to 100,000. Crum thinks the hunts, over the years, may be starting to make a difference.
"I have seen some hogs out here lately which is refreshing. I haven’t seen many hogs out, but there’s about a dozen little piglets out there,” the hunter said. However, we won’t know for sure whether these hunts are paying off for years to come.
So, what happens to all the captured snakes? The hunters are allowed to keep them and do whatever they desire with their catch.