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25 professional snake hunters to target Burmese pythons in Miami-Dade County

Pilot project to be introduced Thursday by South Florida Water Management

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – The South Florida Water Management District is joining the fight to combat the invasive Burmese python population.

One of the biggest problems plaguing the Florida Everglades is the invasive species of snake. Released by uninterested pet owners, they have multiplied quickly.

That’s why the Water Management District is presenting a program Thursday to try and deal with the population explosion.

"They are literally eating their way through the Everglades of our native wildlife," conservation biologist and reptile expert Joe Wasilewski said.

Wasilewski knows a thing or two about snakes -- particularly Burmese pythons. He has worked closely with the state to try and control the invasive species for a decade.

"I have removed myself over 100," he said.    

Now the Water Management District wants to launch a $175,000 pilot project to hunt the snakes down. The two-month hunt would include 25 paid snake hunters scouring the district's land in Miami-Dade County, where the snakes are most prevalent.

This would be very different than the python challenge, which puts a bounty on the snakes. These hunters would not be amateurs, but trained snake hunters who are paid to capture and remove the reptiles.

The most difficult part of hunting the snakes is detecting them.

"I think it is about time for this program. We have had volunteers in South Florida using their own gas and vehicles, their own time catching pythons for the last 10 years and they are pretty talented," Wasilewski said.

While he admits that eradicating the snake from the Everglades is not realistic, Wasilewski believes that paid professionals can make a big difference.

"You let them loose, each one of them is going to catch 100 snakes in a year -- times 25 -- that is a lot of snakes and we are not studying them. We are removing them," Wasilewski said.

Experts said that catching and removing one snake might actually represent dozens of snakes if a pregnant female is caught.

The South Florida Water Management District will outline complete details of the plan on Thursday.