Thursday, September 3, 2009

Chairman Rodney Barreto Addresses Python Program Expansion

Chairman Rodney Barreto Addresses

Python Program Expansion

"It’s a natural step because, historically, hunters have been instrumental in conserving wildlife across this great country."
Chairman Rodney Barreto
Florida Wildlife Commission

Exotic animal species are common throughout the southern half of Florida. Iguanas fall out of trees during cool spells in Miami, Cuban tree frogs are everywhere eating not only bugs but native frogs as they go, African monitor lizards, ornery and mean in the best of times and up to 7 feet long, are patrolling canals in Cape Coral. Even Vervet monkeys have a colony near a car rental lot in Fort Lauderdale. And of course Burmese pythons are eating alligators in the Everglades, to say nothing of coons, birds and fish.

Chairman Rodney Barreto commented recently on the efforts to stem the tide of the most troubling invasive animal in Florida, the Burmese python. It is important to note the positive comments about hunter's positive contributions to wildlife management and conservation.

Chairman Barreto writes:

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) initiated a program on July 17 to help stop the spread of Burmese pythons in Florida. This program is only the first step in our efforts to stop the spread of these invaders.

We issued permits to 13 python experts to capture and euthanize any reptile of concern found in specific state-managed lands in South Florida. This initial program will run until Oct. 31, at which time we will consider expanding it. So far, the permit holders have captured 17 pythons and provided us with data on location, size and habits.

We are encouraged that the permit holders have captured that many pythons. Each python removed means one less python in the wild and one less python with the potential to reproduce 100 eggs in a season. While there are thousands of pythons in South Florida, the majority of the population occurs in Everglades National Park, which is not a part of our permit program.

The state-managed lands where pythons may be captured under this new permit program represent the northern-most range for Burmese pythons. To destroy even one of these nonnative invasive reptiles is a victory in the battle to stop the spread of pythons elsewhere in Florida.

We anticipate many more pythons will be captured as the weather cools and pythons come out to sun themselves during the day.

But we haven’t limited our python removal efforts to the 13 experts; we’ve expanded them to include hunters. It’s a natural step because, historically, hunters have been instrumental in conserving wildlife across this great country. Beginning with the first hunt of the 2009-2010 season, hunters on specific wildlife management areas in South Florida may take any reptile of concern they encounter during the course of their hunting excursion. If it’s archery season, they may take a python with a bow and arrow and any other instrument that’s legal to posses on the area during that season. If it’s muzzleloader season, they may use that type of gun to take the species. This special order, issued by the FWC’s executive director, includes alligator hunters on these state-managed areas.

We are asking the hunters to provide information about any reptiles of concern they kill in order to compile more complete information about the species.

Burmese pythons have invaded our native habitat, at least partly, because of people releasing them into the wild. We urge people with an exotic nonnative pet they can no longer keep, to turn in the reptile at Pet Amnesty Days held around the state. The next one is scheduled for Nov. 7 in the Tampa area. No matter what – never release a nonnative animal into the wild.

The FWC takes its responsibility for managing fish and wildlife seriously, and our priority always will be protection and conservation of native species. The difficult challenges already facing native wildlife – habitat loss and human population increases – are compounded by the threat of Burmese pythons being loose in the wild.

Discussions are continuing on how best to manage the Burmese python problem, and the FWC is dedicated to working with all of our partners – Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, South Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – through special programs, scientific efforts and legislative action. Our mission of managing fish and wildlife resources for their long-term well-being and the benefit of people is clearly shown in our dedication and new programs to stop the spread of all nonnative species in Florida.


Rodney Barreto
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

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