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Come One, Come All: Python Hunting Now Open to Amateurs in Florida

April 25, 2017 - 11:30am

Python hunting, an activity once reserved for a select few hunters in Florida, is now open to the average Joe wanting to snag a slithering snake.

On Monday, Florida wildlife officials unveiled a new way state officials will try to rid the Everglades of the invasive species taking over -- and wreaking havoc -- on the environment in the Sunshine State.

Rather than limit the search for the snakes to experienced hunters, the average Florida man and woman can now join in the fight against pythons.

Dubbed the “Python Pickup Program,” the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will hand out prizes to anyone in Florida who captures a python, snaps a photo and sends it over.

The reward for nabbing a snake? On top of bragging rights, adventurous amateur python hunters receive a “Python Pickup Program” t-shirt and get entered into a larger drawing to win prizes like GoPro cameras, gas cards, Yeti tumblers and backpacks.

The grand prize in the Python Pickup Program is a Florida Lifetime Sportsman’s License, which will be given out in March of next year.

Python hunters aren’t limited to hunting in the Everglades. They can take their adventurous spirit to private lands, FWC--managed lands listed below, and other public lands. 

On private lands, pythons can be humanely euthanized at any time with landowner permission - no permit required.

The FWC says it encourages people to remove pythons from private lands whenever possible.

Wannabe python hunters should be warned that catching the snakes, which sometimes reach seven feet long and weigh hundreds of pounds, won’t be easy.

Python hunts often take hours on end and there’s no guarantee of catching a snake, especially in the hot summer months when the snakes can easily warm themselves deep in nature where they can easily camouflage themselves from being spotted.

Cooler months typically tend to bring pythons out into the open since they will sun themselves on the pavement, making them easier to catch.

The combination of excessive heat and a lack of rain, which would cool temperatures, makes for less-than-ideal conditions to successfully catch a python.

One of the ecosystem’s biggest predators, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission experts say the snakes threaten the area’s precious wildlife, consuming everything in sight and wreaking havoc on the region, one bite at a time. 

To make a dent in the python population, the South Florida Water Management District threw $200,000 into the pilot program to pay hunters to eradicate the snakes from the Everglades. 

Pythons have largely taken over in Florida and state officials estimate there are somewhere between 15,000 and 150,000 pythons roaming free in the Sunshine State.

Last month, Sunshine State News tagged along with a professional python hunter on the quest to bag a snake. 

Tom Rahill, a professional python hunter, told SSN he found python hunting therapeutic and says the hunt is a great bonding activity.

“It evokes a lot of emotion in everyone when you catch a python,” he told SSN at the time. “You have the opportunity to open up and bond with each other.”

Other hunters said hunting was a valuable learning experience 

“I learned a lot about snakes and gained a real respect for them,” said Swamp Ape Melanie Aycock. “I don’t have a fear of them anymore. I respect them.”

Overall, python hunters haven’t seemed to be able to make a dent in the python population, but that doesn’t mean the FWC is giving up the fight. 

Incentivizing the average Joe, the FWC says, is a step towards getting rid of the snakes, once and for all.

"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.”

Next month’s prize for capturing and killing a python? A t-shirt, a Yeti tumbler and a $100 gas gift card.




Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.


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