The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

January 11, 2013

Killing pythons for cash lures hunters to Everglades

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A flourishing population of Burmese pythons in South Florida is devouring animals such as bobcats and opossums, and threatening endangered species. So the state devised a solution: offer cash for hunters to kill them.

More than 550 hunters from 30 states have signed up for a contest called the “Python Challenge,” which begins Saturday and offers $5,000 in prize money for those who slay the longest and largest number of the invasive snakes. They’ll troll 1.3 million acres (526,091 hectares), including part of the Everglades National Park, looking for snakes that the state says threaten the ecosystem and native wildlife.

“It sounds like a fun thing to do,” said Adam Danker- Feldman, 24, a New York financial analyst who said he’s never hunted and signed up based on a friend’s suggestion. “He said, ‘Book your tickets, this is going to be an adventure.’”

Burmese pythons, native to Southeast Asia, eat endangered animals in and around the Everglades, including the Key Largo woodrat, a brown and white rodent with a hairy tail found only in the Florida Keys.

Federal, state and local governments have spent more than $6 million in Florida since 2005 trying to control pythons and other invasive constrictor snakes, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

There are an estimated 30,000 pythons in the Florida Everglades, according the National Park Service website. Since 1995, the number that have been observed in the Everglades has “increased dramatically,” according to the park service.

In 2010, Florida banned Burmese pythons from being acquired as pets. Last year, the Obama administration banned the snakes from being imported or sold across state lines.

The pythons are among 137 invasive species of reptiles and amphibians in Florida, the most in the world, according to a 2011 study by Kenneth Krysko, herpetology collection manager at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville. Officials at the Everglades National Park this year found a 17-foot, 7- inch (5.4 meter) Burmese python with 87 eggs, both records.

The contest, which ends on Feb. 10, may provide useful data for scientists at the state Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission to show where the snakes, which usually grow between 6 and 9 feet, are living and what they’re eating. That information can help with future removal programs, said Carli Segelson, spokeswoman for the conservation commission, which is running the event.

Greg Graziani, who runs his own reptile breeding facility in Venus, Fla., and hosted National Geographic’s TV program “Python Hunters,” said it takes an average of 92 hours to hunt one python outside of the hatching season in August and September. Graziani, who helped start a park program in 2009 that trains volunteers to capture live pythons, said it can be difficult to hunt the snakes. Hunters in Florida have killed fewer than five pythons in recent years, he said.

“We’ve done demonstrations where we’ll take a 12-foot snake and set it in some brush that’s no more than ankle-high and you can be three, four feet away and never see the animal,” he said.

Florida is the latest state to offer cash for killing animals. Chippewa County, Minn., renewed a program last year for the first time since 1965 offering hunters $10 per coyote. In Utah, Gov. Gary Herbert signed a law in March increasing state bounties to $50, up from $20, for coyote ears. Hunters get $2 for wild pig tails in Caldwell County, Texas.

There has been no documented cases of wild pythons injuring humans, unlike domestic snakes, Segelson said. An Orlando-area couple, Charles Jason Darnell and Jaren Hare, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2011 when their 8-foot Burmese python escaped its cage and strangled Hare’s sleeping 2-year-old daughter.

Elise Traub, director of wildlife protection for the Washington-based Humane Society, which describes itself as the nation’s largest animal protection group, said the contest won’t help control the snake population.

“Killing contests are ineffective and send the wrong message about wildlife management,” Traub said.

The Florida contest is open to anyone who pays a $25 registration fee, signs a waiver of liability and reads a 36- page document that advises hunters to look for snakes basking in the morning sun along canal banks. The prize money comes from the fees and sponsors.

Graham Rogers, 24, who convinced Danker-Feldman to sign-up, said he got some tips from rattlesnake hunters in Kentucky, where he grew up. Rogers, a New York University law school student who last hunted about a decade ago, said he’ll camp in the area when he’s not pursuing snakes.

“A python is fairly dangerous,” Rogers said. “There’s definitely a turn-on about hunting something carnivorous that could, in theory, eat you.”

 

1
Text Only
News
  • Porter Another teen says he threw rock on I-80, too

    MIFFLINBURG — The father of the third juvenile charged as an adult in a July 10 rock-throwing attack that left an Ohio woman fighting for her life was apologetic following his son’s arraignment Monday.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Victim of rock-throwers making progress

    DANVILLE — Sharon Budd, the 52-year-old Ohio woman fighting for her life after being hit by a rock thrown from an Interstate 80 overpass, is slowly coming around, according to her husband, Randy.

    July 22, 2014

  • Danville train diver left hospital 4 days before suicide

    DANVILLE — The young man who killed himself by diving under an Iron Heritage Festival passenger train underwent treatment in mental health facilities as recently as four days before his death, according to Montour County Coroner Scott E. Lynn.

    July 22, 2014

  • Today's editorial: Dubious achievements in press secretary-ism

    Ryan Shucard, press secretary to Valley Congressman Tom Marino since May, recently posted on LinkedIn that he was excited and ready to elevate the congressman’s legislative profile — which Shucard did last weekend (but not in a good way) when he got himself arrested for bringing a pistol into a federal office building.

    July 22, 2014

  • Mayor's dog recovering from attack

    DANVILLE — Bernie and Red Swank have two different routes they take daily when they walk their dogs, and at about 8:30 a.m. Sunday in the 200 block of Water Street, a German shepherd attacked Lex, their white 5-year-old lhasa apso.

    July 21, 2014

  • Basic subsidy for Lewisburg schools down slightly

    LEWISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed executive budget will provide the Lewisburg Area School District with an additional $90,457 from the state, but most of the increase will be reflected in $125,275 to support a Ready to Learn grant.

    July 21, 2014

  • Shikellamy extend deadline for school project

    The Shikellamy District board agreed at a special meeting last Thursday, to extend until Sept. 5, the deadline for the receipt of bid documents for the $17 million Shikellamy Middle School project. Bids were originally scheduled to be opened Tuesday.

    July 21, 2014

  • Second juvenile charged as adult in rock-throwing incident

    MIFFLINBURG — A second juvenile was charged as an adult Monday morning for his alleged involvement a July 10 rock-throwing incident that left an Ohio woman fighting for her life.

    July 21, 2014

  • Midd-West to hire Snook's replacement tonight

    Newport School District’s director of educational services is slated to be hired tonight by the Midd-West School Board to fill the vacant director of curricular and instruction position.

    July 21, 2014

  • rgbcar20abw.jpg My 1st Car Photo Contest Winner

    Maxton Mielke, Sunbury, won the My 1st Car photo contest this week. Photos can be entered in this week's contest: Pet lookalike at www.dailyitem.com/dailyblast. Look for the Outshoot the Experts contest and submit your best photos! Photos can also be submitted on our facebook page or via Instagram and Twitter with #dipets.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

The Daily Marquee
Video
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.