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Spring Hill
Friday, June 14, 2024

The hatch is on

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That’s right, folks, the hatch is on down in South Florida. The Python hatch, that is. Those big female Burmese Pythons have been guarding their eggs for the last two-to-three months, and the hatchlings are coming out of the eggs, up to 100 at a time.

These baby Burmese Pythons leave the eggs at an average of 28 inches and are ravenous! They will be dining, practically non-stop, on anything they can get a coil around; grasshoppers, small frogs, lizards and even crawfish. By the end of their first month, they will be nearing three feet in length and will be spreading out hither and thither, seeking out new territories with steady sources of protein to sustain their rapid growth.

It’s important for those of us trying to make a difference to locate them, as while still but a few days out of the egg, they won’t yet be traveling far, and if you can find one, by thoroughly scouring the area, you can find more. Two years ago, a friend and licensed Python contractor for the South Florida Water Management District picked up 37 of the wicked little menaces within a 100-yard radius of his initial sighting.

I particularly enjoy picking up the hatchlings because their teeth have yet to develop fully, and their bites are akin to being scraped with sandpaper, unlike their older relatives, which can really tear you up if you’re not careful.

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Python hunters, like Mike Kimmel of Martin County Trapping, have been making some tremendous catches by locating the big females and raiding their nests, but the work is far from over. At this stage of growth, they’re at their most vulnerable as prey for eagles, hawks and even very large bass. But that accounts for less than an eight percent mortality rate amongst the hatchlings. It’s up to us to make a difference.

Once these invasive babies reach three feet in length, they will encounter very few natural predators. Highways do, thankfully, take an undetermined toll on their numbers, but the greatest impact is from actual boots on the ground, hunters, taking the time to get out and expend an awful lot of sweat seeking them out.

And sweat is a fact! My most recent hunt, fully funded by a generous donation from All American Metal Recycling, Inc., yielded a pair of male Pythons and a case of heat exhaustion. At two o’clock am, it was still 87 degrees! Without any breeze blowing in from the Gulf of Mexico to cool off, it was miserable. Over the course of the weekend, I drank over a case of bottled water and around six quarts of Gatorade to be able to continue the hunt.

I’ll be headed south again in a couple of weeks, seeking out new territory to hunt. The Florida Python Challenge is right around the corner, and I need to locate likely travel routes to afford my team the best opportunity to rack up a score. The most fun, my team of Python picker-uppers will be joined by a camera crew for a documentary on the Python invasion which hopefully will air on HBO Max later this Fall.

If you have any questions or comments for me about hunting the invasive Burmese Pythons, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. God Bless and good hunting!

Toby Benoit
Toby Benoit
Toby Benoit is a best selling novelist and professional outdoorsman with thirty-five years of experience guiding and outfitting for big game all across America. Toby is a renowned archer and turkey hunting expert who manufactures custom game calls and is a regular judge at NWTF sanctioned turkey calling events across the Southeast.
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