My inbox has been flooded with python queries since my last column about hunting them. A Very many of you want to get in on the action and I surely welcome you! Now, not too long ago, Florida Governor Ron Desantis announced the upcoming 2023 Python Challenge that will be held across South Florida, from August 4 – 15. I’ve got a bit of experience with hunting the Burmese Pythons so I’ve signed up. I’ve assembled quite a team, comprised of Ariel Dixon, Angelia Swanson and Sheila Nand, and we will be hunting round the clock, hoping to win some of the big time cash and prizes being offered by the state. You can read more about it at www.flpythonchallenge.org
I get asked all the time, “How do I become a paid python removal contractor?” and “Where are the best spots?” Well, there are two state agencies that hire invasive species removal contractors; our Florida Wildlife Commission and the South Florida Water Management District, with only 100 total contractors (50 per agency). Last I checked, the two agencies had over 1,300 applications with nearly 100 of them folks having solid South Florida python removal experience. There’s only one or two openings each year due to contractors leaving the program or being fired for disciplinary issues. So, that applicant list is bound to just get longer.
Each contractor can only have a certain number of assistants and there can only be a certain number on each. Each assistant has to fill out a set of paperwork and have a background check to be authorized to ride along with a contractor. But, these guys get overwhelmed with requests for ride-alongs and it’s not often that they acquiesce.
As far as secret spots for pythons, I tell ya, there really aren’t any. Sometimes it seems there’s far more luck than kill involved in crossing their paths. Prepare to go days and weeks sometimes without finding a python depending on the season. Some nights you’ll find two or three, my best night having found five in the truck, but more often you come back empty handed. Report your captures to the FWC’s Exotic Species Hotline at 888-Ive-Got1 (483-4681).
Be aware that it is illegal to transport the python live now. We used to wrestle them into bags and tote them out alive, to be dealt with at a more opportune time. Now, we have to carry a cooler full of ice to prevent the skins and meat from going bad. All pythons must be euthanized at the site of the capture; a pocket knife through the brain cavity seems to do the job nicely, but you can refer to the python challenge website mentioned earlier for more techniques to stay legal.
I’ll be leading hunts down there each month and if any of you would like to join me, or just want to learn more about the hunt, then reach out to me at [email protected]. God Bless and good hunting!