An experimental python hunting program started by the South Florida Water Management District had an early success with the capture of three snakes, including one that was 14-feet long.
The two month program began Saturday with 25 hunters earning minimum wage plus an opportunity for bonuses by length of snake captured.
When the water management district announced its program, more than 1,000 people applied to be part of it.
The job pays $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. The district set aside $175,000 for the program.
“A lot of people are just sick that they are here in the first place,” said water management district spokesman Randy Smith about people who applied to be hunters. “There’s not a lot of sympathy for the python.”
On Thursday, Greg Conterio was deep in the Everglades west of Florida City hunting pythons.
He saw a glimmer in a pond and hastily stopped his truck.
Did the 56-year-old paid political activist who is between jobs find a python?
Burmese pythons are at the top of the food chain in the Everglades, with no natural predators and eating their way north and south.
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.
In December, researchers found that a 15-foot female python had eaten three white-tailed deer in the 90 days before its capture because their hooves were still in its stomach.
“They are ambush predators,” said Nick Aumen, senior science advisor for the southeast region of the U.S. Geological Survey. “They lay in wait for their prey, buried in vegetation. Any pythons that we can remove is good.”