JUST IN: Python hunters closing in on 1000th snake

Dusty “Wildman” Crum with previous record python kill of 16-foot-10-inch snake in May. The image of the cat in the back is part of a trail head.

A landmark program to reduce the number of invasive Burmese pythons in the Everglades is closing in on a milestone with its 1000th snake.

The program, launched in March 2017 by the South Florida Water Management District, pays hunters minimum wage and a cash bonus based on snake length. A snake found guarding a nest with eggs is worth an additional $100.

As of mid-week, 984 pythons had been removed from the Everglades, where they decimate the native animal population.

RELATED: Python tries to eat deer bigger than itself.

The district plans to broadcast live the weigh-in of the 1000th python caught on its Facebook page. 

It is the most successful python removal initiative Florida has tried, said University of Florida wildlife ecology professor Frank Mazotti, and not just because of the numbers of snakes removed.

A clutch of celebrity tourists and politicians have joined in hunts, ginning up a South Florida sensation that has gained international interest.

“I think putting boots on the ground, and the right boots on the ground, has been part of the success,” Mazotti said in a December interview about the program and the 50 hunters hired by the district. “But one of the best things is the attention it has brought to the problem.”

WATCH: Epic battle between python and alligator caught on video.

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and his son, Jack, pose with SFWMD Python Hunter Kyle Penniston and Jason Catarineau and two of the three Burmese pythons they eliminated. THE F WORD WITH GORDON RAMSAY, on FOX. 

In July, Emmy-nominated chef Gordon Ramsay was on a hunt that netted three pythons in western Miami-Dade County. He cooked up the catch on a levee near where the snakes were found for his TV series “The F Word with Gordon Ramsay.”

Hunter Dusty “Wildman” Crum and fellow python hunter Bill Booth took legendary rocker Ozzy Osbourne and his son Jack on a snake hunt for the show “Ozzy & Jack’s World Detour.”

The senior Osbourne’s recollection of the excursion in a Rolling Stone article is laced with characteristic obscenities, but the so-called Prince of Darkness said he didn’t think it was “very cool” to be in a boat surrounded by snakes and alligators, and that it was not his “cup of tea.”

Last month, Crum was interviewed on The Weather Channel, sparking a hilarious reaction from Wellington native Stephanie Abrams – a popular meteorologist on the morning show AMHQ.

Wellington native Stephanie Abrams reacts to a question by co-host Jim Cantore about what can be done with python skin.

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