Florida wildlife officials, opening a new front in the war on invasive snakes, are recruiting the general public for “python patrols” that teach them how to identify and even capture some of the hissing, snapping reptiles.
“We consider [Burmese pythons] established, which means the hope of removing them is pretty slim,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologist Jenny Novak said during a recent training session with 20 volunteers in south Florida. “We’re in management mode now.”
On Sunday, the volunteers spent an hour in a classroom learning how to distinguish between invasive and native snakes and how to safely capture and contain them.
Later, the group moved outside where coiled up pythons were released and volunteers used poles to pin their heads, sometimes with mouths agape, to the ground. They then grabbed the snake at the base of its head and carefully manoeuvred it into a bag sealed with electrical tape.
After taking the class and applying for a permit, volunteers can hunt for snakes on some FWC-owned properties.
But critics say the public should stay away from the non-venomous pythons, which can grow to more than 5½ metres in length and kill by constricting their prey.