python Python hunting season coming upThe Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has declared March 8 through April 17 hunting season for Burmese pythons living on state lands in South Florida.

If you wish to hunt pythons, you’ll need a hunting license and you must also purchase a $26 management area permit for reptiles. Centerfire rifles mustn’t be used, but shotguns, pistols and ordinary rifles will be permitted. All kills must be reported to FWC within 36 hours.

You will not be allowed to remove living pythons from state lands.

The Burmese Python (Python molurus bivittatus) is the largest subspecies of the Indian Python and is native to south and south-eastern Asia. During recent years populations of Burmese Python has managed to establish themselves in Everglades, Florida. Since the python is a popular pet, these feral snakes are believed to hail from pets set free by their owners, e.g. because the snakes grew too large to handle or expensive to feed. Hurricane Andrew also released an unknown number of pets, including exotic fish and reptiles, into the wild when it wrecked havoc with homes and establishments along the coast back in 1992.

Over 1300 Burmese Pythons have been captured in the Everglades so far and local authorities now feel that it’s time to enlist civilians in the struggle against this invasive species. The Burmese python competes with the native alligator for food and is also known to eat birds, including several endangered species. Although the alligators seem to fend off the pythons pretty well, it is impossible to tell what long-term effects the introduction of such an efficient top-predator could have on the unique ecosystem of the Everglades.

FWC official Chuck Collins said government isn’t always the best solution to stopping the spread of invasive, exotic species.

Better solutions are developed when we work with people closest to the issue — in this case, the hunters,” Collins said.

Roughly 50 hunters have already participated in ”Pythons 101” courses arranged by FWC officers and local experts, courses where hunters get to know more about python behavior, biology, habitat and diet as well as capture techniques and how to handle a python in safe way. The participants were also offered a chance to practice in the L-67 canal system.

The quickest and easiest way to euthanize them is with a sharp instrument like a machete,” said Cole, a snake breeder from Haines City who instructed the hunters to kill rapidly and cause as little stress and suffering as possible. “The veterinary association recommends swift decapitation or a bullet. Don’t club these snakes to death”, he added.

The Burmese python is a semi-aquatic species that likes to stay near water but it can also be encountered in trees. Wild individuals normally stay below 4 meters in length but large specimens are nearly 6 meters long. Within its local range it is a popular source of food and Burmese python parts are also utilized by traditional healers.