People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is asking that a program that pays hunters to kill invasive Burmese pythons in the Everglades to be investigated for animal cruelty.
In a letter this week to the district and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, PETA says a video posted online about the successful capture and kill of a 17-foot python earlier this month shows the snake was shot in the head and neck. The hunter said the snake was first shot in the head.
PETA said the only humane way to euthanize a python is with a “penetrating captive-bolt gun or gunshot to the brain.
“Proper positioning for the penetration of the captive-bolt or firearm projectile is critical because of the unique physiological characteristics of reptiles, who require immediate destruction of the brain in order to avoid undue pain and suffering,'” wrote Lori Kettler, PETA deputy general counsel.
Florida invasive species experts have said the water management district’s python hunt has been the most successful in catching the voracious predators and bringing attention to the problem.
As of mid-week, 788 invasive pythons were removed by district hunters since the program began in March.
A native to Asia, the Burmese python is considered one of the largest snakes in the world. FWC’s website says it was likely introduced into the Everglades by accident or intentional releases by pet owners. While not venomous, “the giant constrictors have thrived, assuming a top position on the food web.”
In a statement, the district says all python killings “must be conducted in a humane manner.”
“Rules of the Python Elimination Program direct all participating hunters to follow American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines in the eradication of these snakes,” the statement said. “District staff review all claims/complaints levied against the program’s hunters and will continue to enforce the rules of the program.”
Jason Leon, the 28-year-old Miami native who caught and killed the 17-foot python in the video, said in an interview this week that he is mindful not to cause the snake any undue suffering.
“You want the snake to die instantly,” he said.
Another hunter, Dusty “Wildman” Crum, said he is also careful about killing a captured python in the most humane way possible.
“We don’t want the snake to suffer,” Crum said. “It’s not their fault they are in the situation they are in.”
The FWC could not immediately be reached for comment.