Monday, July 20, 2009

Burmese Python First Catch of Florida Permit Program

Armed with snake hooks and nets, a group of reptile experts selected by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to participate in the state's python permit program captured a 9-foot, 8-inch Burmese python. The volunteer permit holders spotted the python in water underneath a boardwalk leading to a camp on a tree island. It was later euthanized.

"Honestly, I was surprised. I did not expect to see a Burmese python today," said Shawn Heflick of Palm Bay, one of the permit holders. "We hope our success today helps us establish connections with airboat operators and sportsmen out here in the 'Glades. They can tell us where these snakes are, so we can go out and find them."

The FWC's Burmese python permit program kicked off Friday. It allows permit holders to search for pythons on several FWC wildlife management areas and lands managed by the South Florida Water Management District.

"Today's success in the field points to the professionalism and experience of our permit holders," said FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto. "We thank Gov. Charlie Crist for supporting this program. Today's outcome shows that we do have a serious Burmese python problem, and this program is a good first step in helping to stop the spread of this exotic species."

To date, the FWC has issued permits to five people to participate in the program. Permit holders must already have a Reptile of Concern permit. The FWC screens them before issuing permits for participation in this program. When permit holders capture and euthanize a python, they must report its GPS location and take a digital photo of the carcass. They must also fill out a data collection sheet and submit it to the FWC. If they wish to do so, permit holders may sell the snake's hide and meat.

The python permit program runs from July 17 to October 31, at which time the FWC will evaluate the data collected and determine if it should extend or expand the program.