If you're a regular reader of NRA Family, then you may have seen our previous reporting on just how much of a problem Burmese pythons have become in the Florida Everglades. The "thumbnail sketch" of the problem is this: Burmese pythons are popular as pets, but they're very good at escaping captivity...and they're unfortunately very well-suited for life in the Everglades. As a non-native species, they're thought to be responsible for the significant reduction in the numbers of many Everglades species, including animals as large as deer. To combat this, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is launching the Python Pickup Program, which provides people with incentives and expanded opportunities to remove these invasive constrictors.
The Python Pickup Program is designed to encourage the public to remove and report wild Burmese pythons by rewarding participants with valuable prizes. Starting now, anyone can participate in this innovative new program. People who remove pythons simply need to submit photographic evidence of the snake as well as the location from which it was removed. Anyone who submits this information will receive a free Python Pickup T-shirt for submitting their first entry. For every submission received, participants will be entered into a monthly prize drawing as well as a grand prize drawing to be held next year. Monthly prizes include snake hooks, custom engraved Yeti tumblers, Plano sportsman's trunks, GoPro cameras and Badlands backpacks. The grand prize is a Florida Lifetime Sportsman's License. The first drawing will take place in May 2017.
As part of the Python Pickup, people can submit pythons removed from any property in Florida where they have authorization to do so from the property owner or land manager. What's more, a recent Executive Order allows people to remove pythons year-round from 22 public lands with no hunting license or wildlife management area permit required.
"We know many Florida residents and visitors want to help tackle this tough conservation challenge by going after pythons in the wild and removing any they can find," said FWC Executive Director, Nick Wiley. "We want to continue to encourage and support this important citizen conservation effort. This Executive Order clarifies regulatory questions and makes it easier than ever for people to remove Burmese pythons from the wild."
Earlier this month, the FWC also launched a Python Contractor Program which pays participants for efforts to remove Burmese pythons from the wild. The FWC selected 22 contractors already experienced with capturing wild Burmese pythons. Contractors are paid an hourly wage for their efforts to remove Burmese pythons. The FWC will also pay contractors for each snake removed. The program is similar to one recently implemented by the South Florida Water Management District.
People interested in training on how to identify and safely remove pythons can take part in a Python Patrol Training. For more information, go to MyFWC.com/Python and click on "Python Patrol."
The FWC will continue to work with the public and partners to explore other projects aimed at removing pythons and other nonnative species in Florida.
People can also help with efforts to manage Burmese pythons and other nonnative species by reporting sightings to the FWC's Exotic Species Reporting Hotline at 888-Ive-Got1 (888-483-4681), online at IveGot1.org, or by downloading the free "IveGot1" smartphone app.
For more information on Burmese pythons in Florida and the various management programs, visit MyFWC.com/Python.