PETA wants invasive python hunt investigated for animal cruelty

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.

Read full letter here.

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.

Related: The Prince of Darkness goes on a #@$%$ python hunt. 

A demonstration on how to handle a Burmese Python during training for the Python Challenge at University of Florida Research and Education Center in Davie, Florida, January 12, 2012. (Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post)

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.”

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

“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.

Related: Pythons ran amok in the Everglades until these hired guns showed up. 

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.

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Why this happened to the landmark python hunting program

Hunters paid to track and kill invasive pythons have taken 760 of the voracious snakes out of the Everglades since a landmark program began in March.

The South Florida Water Management District, which pays minimum wage plus cash prizes based on snake size, approved the plan only as a temporary experiment.

VIDEO: Watch Dusty “Wildman” Crum wrestle nearly 17-foot python. 

But with the bounty of snakes caught, which cumulatively weigh 11,643 pounds, the water management district’s board agreed to spend another $125,000 on the program to extend it.

The unanimous vote last week was made after a convincing presentation that outlined python hunt details, including that the total length of the snakes end-to-end was 5,211 feet, and that hunters earned cash payments of $97,475.

The longest python caught was a hefty 17-feet, one-inch.

Hunters, who have included celebrity chefs and politicians, have also earned a name for themselves for their tenacity and character.

Dusty “Wildman” Crum is well known for his barefoot hunting strategy and ability to wrestle snakes to submission.

WATCH: Python vs. alligator in epic battle for survival. 

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 marker.

Frustration over the unbridled spread of the Burmese python, which eats everything from mice to alligators and has no natural predators in the Everglades, spurred the creation of the district’s program.

Florida is trying myriad ways to reduce the python population, which is estimated to be in the tens of thousands.

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 on Saturday. 

Geneticists work in labs identifying python whereabouts by testing water samples for their DNA. Expert snake hunters from the Irula tribe in India were hired by the University of Florida to search for snakes.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission holds python-hunting contests in which cash prizes are won based on the quantity and the length of snakes.

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

Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera with 15-foot-4-inch python.

BREAKING: They killed scores of pythons, should the hunt continue?

Water management officials will recommend that an innovative program that paid hunters to kill invasive pythons continue in some form after it expired at midnight.

Hunters, who earned minimum wage plus bonuses, killed 154 snakes in the Everglades since March 25 for a total haul of 4,000 pounds of python. A recommendation is expected at next week’s South Florida Water Management District board meeting.

“It’s been a great success,” said Pete Antonacci, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District. “You don’t want to lose momentum when something good is happening.”

The district set aside $175,000 for the plan, and while a final tally for wages and bonuses is still being made, Antonacci said only about half of the money has been spent.

Dusty “Wildman” Crum kills 16-foot-10-inch python as part of water management district program.

Python kill reaches 100 and beyond as time runs out

More than 100 pythons have been killed since March 25 in an experimental program to cull populations of the invasive snake in the Everglades.

The South Florida Water Management District announced the milestone this week as after the 102nd snake was recorded.

Related: See map of where hundreds of gators were caught last year in Palm Beach County

Monday night alone, four pythons were killed, including during a hunt that Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera participated in.

The program, which pays hunters minimum wage plus bonuses based on snake length, is scheduled to end June 1 unless the water management district’s board agrees to extend it.

So far, 102 pythons measuring a combined length of more than 930 feet, the equivalent of more than two and a half football fields, have been eliminated from the Everglades by SFWMD python hunters. That is an average of nearly two snakes killed per day.
At least 40 percent of the snakes eliminated have been females, many found with 30 to 80 eggs inside that were also destroyed. This prevented the birth of more than 1,500 more of the invasive predators this year alone.
Kyle Penniston, of Homestead, captured the milestone 100th snake, a 4-foot-long python killed on the banks of the C-111 Canal in South Miami-Dade County. Penniston has killed more than 20 pythons in the last three years.
Hunter Kyle Penniston caught the 100th python. Courtesy South Florida Water Management District

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Update: 10 pythons in 10 days earns hunters whopping bounties

Ten invasive Burmese pythons have been captured by paid hunters working for the South Florida Water Management District bringing them a total of $2,000 in bonuses based on length.

The hunt, which also pays minimum wage – $8.10 per hour – has been ongoing for 10 days.

The longest snake captured was nearly 16 feet long and 135-pounds. The kill earned hunter Patrick Campbell $350. Hunters Nicholas Baños and Leonardo Sanchez found the second largest snake to date on April 1 at 15 feet 2 inches. This python netted the hunters $325.

“For these hunters to have already eliminated 10 snakes is tremendous, given the fact that simply locating the elusive python is literally like finding a moving, camouflaged needle in a haystack,” said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Dan O’Keefe in a press release. “It’s great to see that this Governing Board’s action to challenge this invasive and destructive predator has yielded early results.”

The experimental program is being conducted to see how effective full-time hunters can be in cutting down on the population of pythons in the Everglades. There are 25 participants, who will continue hunting until June.

Hunters earn an immediate $50 bonus for a snake up to 4 feet and an extra $25 for each foot above that.

Video: “We had a fight, a real fight” python hunters say about massive catch

The new South Florida Water Management District program to reduce the population of invasive Burmese pythons in the Everglades had at least one success story over the weekend.

Two python hunters nabbed a 15-foot snake that they said put up a “real fight.”

The two-month experimental hunting program began March 25.

Burmese pythons are at the top of the food chain in the Everglades, with no natural predators and eating their way north and south.

“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.”

Related: Missing man found in python 

Florida is trying myriad ways to reduce the python population, which is estimated to be in the tens of thousands.

Geneticists work in labs identifying python whereabouts by testing for their DNA in water samples.

Expert snake hunters from the Irula tribe in India were hired by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Services to search for snakes.

The FWC holds python-hunting contests where cash prizes are won based on quantity and length of snake.

Greg Conterio, uses a hook to try and draw out a Burmese python, which escaped in a small pond in Homestead, Fla., on Thursday, Mar. 30, 2017.(Michael Ares / The Palm Beach Post)

When the water management district announced its program, more than 1,000 people applied to be part of it.

Omar Gomez was one of 25 people chosen. He caught a python Saturday and describes how in the video below.

Related: Hunters make minimum wage to kill Burmese pythons in the Everglades

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.”