Another Florida politician donned a headlamp and boots Thursday to track down invasive Burmese pythons in Florida’s Everglades in a hunt that has become a popular celebrity field trip.
U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Naples, went on a night hunt as part of the South Florida Water Management District’s python control program, which pays hunters minimum wage plus bonuses to kill the elusive reptiles.
His group nabbed five pythons – two adults and three hatchlings.
Rooney, who is seen in one photo with a python draped around his neck, joins previous guest hunters Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo.
Also joining the cast of python hunters was Emmy-nominated chef Gordon Ramsey, who was present during three kills and cooked one of the snakes up with a portable stove on site.
A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman said Burmese pythons from Everglades National Park have been found to have very high levels of mercury.
“Therefore, meat from pythons harvest in Florida may not be recommended for human consumption,” according to the FWC website.
An email sent to Ramsay’s press agent was not immediately returned.
In May, Lopez-Cantera helped nab a 15-foot-4-inch Burmese python with the help of Tom Rahill, a member of Florida’s Swamp Apes.
Randy Smith, a spokesman for the water management district, said that Raschein’s hunting troupe came away with no snakes.
“Innovative ideas such as the Python Elimination Program incentivize members of the public to assist in removing this invasive species and remind us that we all have a vested interest in restoring the Everglades,” Rooney said in a press release.
The job of python hunter pays $8.10 an hour, plus incentives starting at $50 for a 4-foot snake and $25 for each additional foot .
A snake found guarding a nest with eggs is worth an additional $100. The district set aside $175,000 for the program.
About 440 snakes have been taken out of the Everglades since the hunt began.
“A lot of people are just sick that they are here in the first place,” Smith said in April about people who applied to be hunters. “There’s not a lot of sympathy for the python.”
When the Water Management District announced its program, more than 1,000 people applied. Just 25 were chosen.