Python hunting season starts next month in Florida

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Monday announced a special hunting season targeting Burmese pythons on state lands in South Florida March 8 through April 17.

The special season, created by executive order, will allow anyone with a hunting license and a $26 management area permit to take reptiles of concern — including Indian python; reticulated python; northern and southern African rock python; amethystine or scrub python; green anaconda; and Nile monitor lizard. Hunters may use rifles, pistols or shotguns, but no centerfire rifles. They may not bring reptiles out alive and must report all they kill to the FWC within 36 hours.

FWC official Chuck Collins said government isn't always the best solution to stopping the spread of invasive, exotic species.

"Better solutions are developed when we work with people closest to the issue — in this case, the hunters," Collins said.

The snake harvest in the Everglades and Francis S. Taylor, Holey Land, and Rotenberger wildlife management areas is timed to follow the close of small game season and enable hunters to target the reptiles during cooler months when they are out in the open and easier to spot.

Following the news conference held off Tamiami Trail in the 'Glades, FWC officers and local experts gave a group of about 50 hunters a 'Pythons 101' course — including biology, behavior, diet, and habitat. Two demo pythons — a 20-year-old pet named Fluffy and a smaller, wild snake captured recently in the Everglades — were brought out so hunters could practice safe handling and capture techniques.

"You don't want to end up with a Burmese necktie," instructor Shawn Heflick told the group.

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