On the hunt to save the Everglades

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On the hunt to save the Everglades, August 13, 2017 | Chris Berardi (202-897-7700) | comments

On Thursday, I hunted invasive Burmese pythons in the Everglades to bring national attention to the damage caused by these devastating predators, which prey on native wildlife across South Florida. We all have a vested interest in restoring and protecting the Everglades and these invasive species are a serious problem.

Burmese pythons are devastating predators, killing off rabbits, birds, bobcats, panthers and even the Key Largo Wood Rat. One python was implanted with a signal and was tracked for a year moving through several residential subdivisions. Originating from Southeast Asia, with a length of 6 to 9 feet, these pythons are one of the world’s largest snakes. 

Swift action is needed to eradicate the deadly python population before it gets even more out of control. According to the National Park Service, since 2002 over 2,000 pythons have been removed from the swamp; this is just a small fraction of the ever-growing population. A pilot Python Elimination Program launched in 2017 by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) led to the capture of 158 pythons over two months, stretching a combined length of 1,368 feet, or taller than the Empire State Building. Twenty-five quality hunters are picked from among over 1,000 applicants by the SFWMD, and are compensated for their public service in hunting the destructive snakes. With such success, the SFWMD expanded the program.

We desperately need to change the federal government rule prohibiting the hunting of invasive species on national park lands. Hunters need freedom to pursue these invasive species in whatever manner will most effectively eliminate them, wherever they are.

In addition to invasive pythons, the Everglades faces further challenges. Invasive plant species threaten the tree islands. Simultaneously, there is a need to move water from Lake Okeechobee south into the Everglades. The Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), especially building the A2 reservoir, is a critical element in restoring water flow south.

Killing off invasive pythons is important but is only part of the solution to the ecosystem’s plight. I am working every day, all the time, to increase funding for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and will continue to raise awareness every way possible, including hunting pythons, about the Everglades, our state and national environmental treasure. 

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