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Hunting pythons in Florida for profit and therapy

Enrique Galan is a professional hunter who helps control the Everglades’ python population, estimated to be tens of thousands. .

Enrique Galan is rarely happier than when he disappears deep into the Everglades to hunt Burmese pythons, an invasive species that has been damaging Florida’s wetland ecosystem for decades.

When not working organizing cultural events in Miami, the 34-year-old spends his time tracking down the nocturnal reptiles from Southeast Asia.

He does this as a professional hunter, hired by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to help control the python population, estimated to be in the tens of thousands.

At night, Galan drives slowly for miles on paved roads and gravel paths, his flashlight plays on grass verges and tree roots, and the banks of waterways where crocodile eyes occasionally sparkle.

He charges $13 per hour and an additional fee per python found: $50 if the maximum is 4 feet, and $25 more for each additional foot.

But on this August evening, he has an extra motivation.

The FWC has held a 10-day python hunting contest, in which 800 people participated. The prize is $2,500 for the one who finds and kills the most pythons in each of the categories: professional and amateur hunter.

And Galan would love to win that money to celebrate the arrival of Jesus, his newborn baby.

Burmese pythons, originally brought to the United States as pets, have become a threat to the Everglades since humans

Burmese pythons, originally brought to the United States as pets, have become a threat to the Everglades since humans released them into the wild in the late 1970s.

Pets released into the wild

Burmese pythons, originally brought to the United States as pets, have become a threat to the Everglades since humans released them into the wild in the late 1970s.

The snake has no natural predators and feeds on other reptiles, birds and mammals such as raccoons and white-tailed deer.

“They’re a great predator,” Galan says with admiration.

Specimens in the Everglades average between six and nine feet in length, but finding them at night in the more than 1.5 million acres (607,000 hectares) wetland requires skill and patience.

Galan has a trained eye, as well as the courage and determination required for the job. After two unsuccessful nights, he sees a shadow on the shoulder of Highway 41: he jumps out of his truck and jumps to the animal, a baby Burmese python.

He grabs it behind the head so as not to get bitten, puts it in a cloth bag and fastens it with a knot. He will kill it hours later with a BB gun.

A few kilometers further a huge python glides over the asphalt. Galan jumps out of his truck again, but this time the snake escapes into the grass, leaving behind a strong musky scent, a defense mechanism.

  • Enrique Galan, hired by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), searches for Burmese pythons in the Everglades

    Enrique Galan, hired by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), will search for Burmese pythons in Everglades National Park, Florida, on August 8, 2022.

  • At night, hunters drive slowly for miles on paved roads and gravel paths, while his flashlight plays on grass verges and tree roots.

    At night, hunters drive for miles slowly on paved roads and gravel paths, while his flashlight plays on grass verges and tree roots and the banks of waterways.

  • Everglades National Park at dusk

    The Everglades National Park at dusk.

Therapy for some

Galan attended online training before hunting pythons, but says he learned everything he knows from Tom Rahill, a 65-year-old who founded the Swamp Apes Association 15 years ago to help war veterans deal with traumatic memories through python hunt.

Rahm Levinson, an Iraq war veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, spends a few hours hunting with Rahill and Galan.

“It really helped me through a lot of things that struggled at home,” he said.

“I can’t sleep at night and having someone go out at 12 or 2 am to catch pythons is a productive and good thing.”

Galan is proud to participate in a project that has eliminated more than 17,000 pythons since 2000.

“One of the best things I get out of it is the amount of beauty I’m just surrounded by. If you look closely, open your eyes and observe, you see a lot of magic here.”


Calling all snake hunters: Florida opens registration for this year’s Python challenge


© 2022 AFP

Quote: Hunting pythons in Florida, for profit and therapy (2022, August 18) retrieved August 18, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-08-pythons-florida-profit-therapy.html

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