For the past 20 years, local and state agencies have been on a mission to control and when possible eradicate these invasive species. In the United States alone, we spend $120 billion annually dealing with them. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This is a war that requires all hands on deck. Like a symphony missing a key note, the Everglades can’t truly thrive without the full ensemble. One of the most prominent of these scaly invaders is the Burmese python.
These snakes are native to Southeast Asia but found their way into Florida’s wild in the ’90s through pet owners who dumped them when they got too big. They are apex predators that prey on native mammals, birds, and reptiles. And though they aren’t venomous, their sharp, curved teeth can be quite painful. They’re also incredibly strong. They’ve been known to swallow entire alligators and even deer.
So in response to the python crisis, people from around the country and even other countries are arriving in South Florida with guns, golf clubs, paint rollers, machetes, and cordless screwdrivers. These hunters are scouring the Everglades for any sign of these giant snakes, which can be up to 19 feet long, or roughly the length of a high school basketball three-point line. And while shooting them may feel satisfying, experts say it’s not the answer.