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Burmese pythons need to be managed in Florida and wildlife associations are calling on volunteers to catch them to further decrease the python population. Burmese pythons, Python bivittatus, are a native species to Southeast Asia. Though, they have now become an established species in tropical climate of south Florida. Therefore, eradicating them from area is not an option.
Jenny Novak, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), stated that since removing the python population is next to impossible, the region of south Florida is in management mode. Recently, they have trained 20 volunteers in the area to help with catching the Burmese pythons. Last week, the 20 volunteers devoted an hour of their time in a classroom to learn how to differentiate between native and invasive species of pythons and how to capture them safely.
The volunteers were then trained outside to be around coiled up pythons that were released beforehand. They were instructed by officials at the FWC to use their poles to pin down the python’s head when they are found. Then they gripped the python at the base of its head to cautiously maneuver it into an electrical tape-sealed bag.
Some volunteers found that catching the pythons was a bit harder the first time than they thought. Mark McCarthy, one of the 20 volunteers, stated that his daughter 29-year-old Keeley Philbrook, was a bit weary after her first try of putting her hands on a five-foot Burmese python. Though, he said that he is not worried about her after she has a bit of practice with wildlife technicians. The FWC said that several classes will be available throughout the month and that they are going to attempt to recruit a couple hundred volunteers.
Once volunteers take the class, they will be able to apply for a permit so that they will be able to hunt Burmese pythons on FWC-owned wildlife property. People who are encouraged to hunt these pythons are to hand them over to FWC wildlife officials for them to be euthanized or held for further research.
However, wildlife officials are coming under great scrutiny from critics who say the public should not get involved with such a dangerous species of python. They are worried because the non-venomous Burmese python kills its prey by constricting it. Since the animal can grow to be very large, people could be put in danger by trying to capture them.
Kenneth Krysko, a herpetologist at the University of Florida, stated that he thinks that the FWC’s plan is ridiculous. He explained that you cannot have normal, untrained people grabbing Burmese pythons out of the wild for removal. Krysko also believes that civilian patrols for locating and removing the pythons will be ineffective at reducing the population.
Florida is a center for exotic pet and animal trade. Because of this, many invasive species have been integrated into the tropical environment. FWC officials state that over 150,000 Burmese pythons now inhabit south Florida. If Burmese pythons are to be managed, volunteers are being requested so that the population does not mushroom to levels that are uncontrollable.
By: Alex Lemieux
Picture: Florida Fish and Wildlife – Flickr License