A South Florida python hunter gets bit, but still catches 5 snakes in a day, including three at once.
Mike Kimmel was in a pickle only a Florida hunter could face - one bag, three pythons.
He had already suffered a bite from the day’s first catch, a wriggling Burmese that sank its fangs into skin just above his right wrist, but it was an ideal day for a hunt and he pushed on.
Breaks of sunshine through a lumpy spread of December clouds meant the invasive pythons would spend more time warming themselves on levees that crisscross South Florida’s river of grass like scars.
Kimmel, 31, was rolling slowly in his truck when he spotted two snakes near each other in spiky grass that provides a near-infallible camouflage for the dangerous reptile.
Then there was a third - all within about 10 feet of each other.
“I put my gear down and then I realized I only had one bag to capture all three of them, so that made it a little bit more tricky,” said Kimmel, a licensed python hunter for the South Florida Water Management District and owner of Martin County Trapping and Wildlife Rescue. “It’s a little unusual to see three at once, especially outside of breeding season.”
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In a video he posted to his YouTube channel, Kimmel carefully puts each snake in a white sack. He said he was looking for more even as he wrangled each one into the bag.
“Then I got in the truck and drove maybe 50 feet and there was another python right there,” Kimmel said.
Kimmel said he was hunting near the Big Cypress National Preserve on the overcast December day that ended with a total of five pythons caught.
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The largest was about 9 feet long, Kimmel said.
Despite the day’s bounty, Kimmel said hunters paid by the water management district and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are making a difference in restoring Everglades ecology.
“A few weeks ago I saw a raccoon for the first time in so long,” he said. “I’m seeing more fox squirrels and more gray squirrels. They couldn’t survive before with the pythons breathing down their necks.”
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In September, the water management district gave a big boost to the python program, upping the annual budget of $225,000 by $750,000 — an increase that includes doubling the number of district-sanctioned python hunters to 50.
The district supercharged its python program at the urging of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who said in August he wanted a stronger assault against the Burmese python, including better coordination between state and federal agencies.
Since the district’s program began in March 2017, 2,727 pythons have been removed by its hunters.
“The protection of our environment and natural resources is critical,” DeSantis said earlier this month during an announcement regarding registrations for January’s Python Bowl. “Invasive Burmese pythons have decimated local wildlife and pose a massive threat to natural food chains and flora and fauna.”