If you’re unemployed Indian flautist, own a large basket, and are willing to travel, you may have a job waiting for you in Florida. The state plans to train snake bounty hunters to cull some of the 100,000-plus pythons known to live in the Everglades, and there are even calls for a controlled hunt on federal lands.
Though a pet python reportedly strangled a 2-year-old child to death two weeks ago in an Orlando suburb, experts say the real threat is to Florida wildlife. The snakes, which can grow to 20 feet, are known to consume prey as large as bobcats and deer, as evidenced by the famous photo of a 13-foot python that burst after trying to eat a six-foot alligator. There are now so many of them that they could eventually challenge natural dominant predators.
Rodney Barreto, chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, emphasizes that the trappers will be professionals. They won’t be paid by the state, but will be allowed to take the carcasses and sell the profitable meat and skin.
''This is not the wild, wild West. These people will be licensed, trained and managed by us,” he said.
But if Florida Sen. Bill Nelson has his way, federal lands would be opened for hunting to tackle the python overpopulation problem. His spokesman, Dan McLaughlin, says that a hunt run by the Everglades National Park and limited to ''deputized'' agents from other agencies and volunteers is a better plan of action than the bounty hunter idea.
“Bounty hunting conjures up an image of 'Come one, come all' and go out and start shooting around like Dick Cheney for $50 a head,” he said.