I’ll begin this article by telling you one thing about myself: I am a Floridian. Florida is a fairly unique state, and looking at a map of the United States may give us an understanding of just why it is unlike any other in the nation. It is a long, narrow state that is surrounded by water on three sides. This peninsula boasts the southern-most point in the continental U.S. The warm, moist tropical climate gives the state of Florida the unwelcome record for having the highest number of exotic (non-native) animal species in the country. Animals that would die if they found themselves in one of our other states can survive in Florida, and often have no natural predators to keep them in check. There are estimated to be more than 500 non-native fish, wildlife, and plant species in this state.
These exotic species rarely have a positive effect on the region in which they settle. They out-compete and prey on native species. Feral hogs, cane toads, lionfish, Cuban tree frogs, giant African land snails, iguanas, and green mussels are a few of the animal species which have wreaked havoc on the native Floridian plants and animals. Without a doubt, however, public enemy number one in Florida’s ecosystems is the Burmese python.
These pythons are native to Southeast Asia, and were brought to the U.S. as part of the exotic pet trade. Many folks who tried to make pets out of these reptiles were surprised to find how large they actually get. These are among the largest snakes on Earth. They are capable of reaching 23 feet or more in length and weigh up to 200 pounds. As a result, owners began setting them free, or they managed to escape their enclosures. If this happens in Michigan or Montana, it’s a pretty good bet that the snake will not survive the winter. In fact, the only state in which these tropical reptiles can survive is Florida.
Saying that the Burmese python can survive in Florida is an understatement. These monsters thrive in the Everglades, and are a true danger to the native animals living there. They are decimating the populations of raccoons, rabbits, and opossums. In fact, almost every small, warm-blooded animal that once called the Everglades home is now gone, because the pythons have eaten them.
South Florida has been trying for years to curb the python population (it is almost impossible to eliminate them all together). Now the South Florida Water Management District is really stepping up its game. Recently, the group sent out a “Help Wanted” message to the general public. They will hire up to 50 citizens to help them get these monsters under control. These citizens will get to call themselves “python removal agents,” which is pretty cool, and will be paid by the hour to track and humanely dispose of Burmese pythons. They are even paid bonuses if they bring in a snake that measures more than four feet or a snake that was guarding eggs.
So, how about it, all you adventuresome folks? Want to try your hand at being a Python Removal Agent? Some requirements are that you are at least 18 years old, have all of your ID’s and documentations in order, and have no criminal history. They don’t want a bunch of outlaws wandering the Everglades with guns. Guns? Yep, you’re allowed to use them. Get your resume in order, the Everglades are waiting!