An invasive species that’s been causing headaches in national parks and preserves is now a greater target for elimination.
Everglades National Park and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission announced Thursday that they’re expanding efforts to deal with the scourge of Burmese pythons on public lands.
A program that already put bounties on the heads of pythons captured is growing at Everglades National Park, tripling the number of contractors who can be in the park hunting the snakes at one time.
“While hunting remains prohibited by law in Everglades National Park,” said Everglades National Park Superintendent Pedro Ramos, “we believe the expansion of the program to include allowing FWC contractors to remove pythons in the park will be welcomed by concerned citizens that want to play a role in helping with this significant problem.”
Invasive species are a massive problem when introduced to critical wildlife areas. Often with no natural predators in an environment, these new species thrive and grow in populations, damaging ecosystems and harming native wildlife.
In the case of the Burmese python, the population became established because of individuals who kept them as pets releasing them into the wild, the FWC says. While other methods have been used to try and deal with the problem, the organization says that simply getting trained handlers out in the wild is the best way to curb the python population.
“We appreciate the support and efforts of our partners, especially Everglades National Park and Superintendent Ramos. With the leadership and support of Gov. Scott and our Commissioners, we have seen a significant increase in efforts and results to remove the Burmese pythons and other invasive species,” said FWC Executive Director, Eric Sutton. “Our success moving forward relies on everyone pulling together collectively including agencies, nonprofits, private landowners and individual citizens.”
Congressman Francis Rooney applauded the announcement in a statement Thursday. In recent years, pythons have begun to encroach past Everglades National Park into Big Cypress and the Picayune Strand, on the fringes of where population centers in Southwest Florida begin. Rooney has been a vocal proponent of expanding the python eradication efforts.
“This is good news for our South Florida community. I would like to thank Pedro Ramos with the National Park Service (NPS) at Everglades National Park and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) for their tireless efforts to protect our unique ecosystems,” Rooney said in a prepared statement. “Burmese pythons are a grave danger to the Everglades. Expanding the Python Removal Authorized Agent Program will aid in the removal of more snakes, and help preserve the Everglades.”
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