Python hunt licenses prove extremely popular

The help wanted sign went up less than two weeks ago: “Python hunters needed for minimum wage pay and bonus potential.”

And Florida responded.

Video: Post reporter watches python battle an alligator in now viral video

The South Florida Water Management District’s new python hunting pilot program received 1,000 applications before having to cut it off last week.

The initial program has space for just 25 hunters.

“The 50 chosen have been notified as well as the remaining applicants,” said district spokesman Randy Smith. “Ultimately 25 of the 50 will be selected for the project.”


In an effort to reduce the population of invasive Burmese pythons in the Everglades, the South Florida Water Management District announced an experimental program March 9 that offers $8.10 an hour, plus incentives starting at $50 for a 4-foot-long snake and $25 for each additional foot above that.

A snake found guarding a nest with eggs is worth an additional $100.


Burmese pythons are at the top of the food chain in the Everglades and researchers fear they are spreading. In September, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced python hatchlings were found in Key Largo, while a 10-foot python was found on a levee at the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Palm Beach County.

Watch: Python attacks alligator in epic struggle

“This is a two-month pilot program, so we don’t anticipate eradication, but we want to tap into resources not previously used,” said Rory Feeney, the water management district’s bureau chief for land resources. “We want to see how successful an incentivized program is.”

The python hunt begins April 1. Each participant can be accompanied by up to three volunteers.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has sponsored a similar program called the Python Challenge, but that was a contest with winners taking home prizes up to $5,000 depending on the number of pythons killed and length.

Last year, more than 1,000 people from 29 states registered for the challenge, which netted 106 snakes, including one that was 15-feet-long.

But estimates of how many pythons are in the Everglades are in the tens of thousands and the damage they are doing to native species is alarming. In December, researchers found that a 15-foot female python had eaten three white-tailed deer in the 90 days before capture.

A Palm Beach Post video of a python attacking an alligator in Big Cypress National Preserve in December drew international attention to the issue and was watched by the water management governing board at a meeting this month.

“Anyone who has seen the now famous python vs. alligator video can attest that the fight for survival of the Everglades is real,” said South Florida Water Management District Governing Board chairman Dan O’Keefe at the meeting. “Floridians should have no sympathies for this notorious strangler, and this latest initiative should pave the way for further exotic elimination efforts.”

The district has set aside $175,000 for the program. A participant can earn the $8.10 per hour for up to eight hours per day. Total compensation cannot exceed $6,000.

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