Florida congressman Francis Rooney had a wildly successful python hunting venture this week, bagging five snakes in the Florida Everglades Thursday evening.
As the night went black, the pythons came out to play -- Rooney caught three adults and two “hatchling” pythons between the hours of 10 p.m. and 1 a.m.
Rooney embarked on a python hunt as part of the South Florida Water Management Districts “Python Elimination Program,” which incentivizes members of the public to hunt and kill pythons, an invasive species with population numbers topping 150,000 in South Florida.
Pythons are devouring virtually everything that moves in the Everglades, including native Florida alligators. Marsh rabbits, raccoons, opossums, bobcats, deer, great blue herons, wood storks all have disappeared as a result of the feverish appetite of the pythons, leaving behind a desolate ecosystem.
Rooney’s goal in participating in the hunt -- aside from the thrill of the chase and an interesting story to tell his fellow congressmen when he returns to Washington, D.C. -- was to spread awareness about the devastation pythons are causing in one of Florida’s most precious ecosystems.
“My reason for hunting invasive Burmese pythons in the Everglades was to bring national attention to the damage caused by these devastating predators, which prey on native wildlife across South Florida,” Rooney said. “We all have a vested interest in restoring and protecting the Everglades and these invasive species are a serious problem.”
Bagging the pythons is only part of Rooney’s overall strategy to improve the Everglades. Rooney also noted his commitment to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration plan, which was authorized by Congress in 2000 as a plan to "restore, preserve, and protect the south Florida ecosystem while providing for other water-related needs of the region, including water supply and flood protection."
SFWMD Governing Board chairman Dan O’Keefe said the python hunt was about more than just eliminating a few pythons.
“It’s the prevention of 40 to 50 more snakes by destroying a large female carrying 40 to 50 eggs; and, it’s the countless number of native Florida animals spared from the jaws of these killing-machines,” O’Keefe said.
Rooney isn’t the only Florida politician to head out on a python hunting excursion. In May, Lieutenant Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera embarked on the snake hunt, ultimately killing a 15-foot python with a pocketknife.
“Joining this hunt is a worthy challenge,” said O’Keefe. “Having also experienced the program firsthand by participating in a live hunt, I cannot say enough about the tremendous work of our bounty hunters working long hours and enduring the harsh summer elements to rid the Everglades of this destructive python threat.“