Snake Hunter Wrangles Record Burmese Python From Canal

A bare-handed fight with a giant, powerful Burmese python in a watery canal resulted in a Florida man eventually subduing the beast that became a state record.
Snake Hunter Wrangles Record Burmese Python From Canal

A bare-handed fight with a giant, powerful Burmese python in a watery canal resulted in a Florida man eventually subuing the beast that became a state record.

Florida officials are unsure how the pythons and other non-native exotic species came to live in the sprawling Florida Everglades and water canal systems. Some believe the animals were released by owners after becoming too big to deal with. Some believe that Hurricane Andrew toppled research facilities, homes or other structures housing the snakes a quarter-century ago.

Kyle Penniston of Homestead with his 17 foot 5 inch Burmese python caught Nov.5 2018 in Florida. (Photo: SFWMD)

Whatever the reason, pythons now are part of the ecosystem and are wreaking havoc on other wildlife. That's why the South Florida Water Management District and Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission have an ongoing python eradication program involving hunters who search for the beasts.

Kyle Penniston, who lives in Homestead where Hurricane Andrew hit years ago, spotted a giant Burmese python while hunting on District lands Nov. 5. He was out at night cruising the property in Miami-Dade County where he and other certified python hunters are allowed to hunt.

Penniston spied the giant snake, went into the canal and caught it, and then tried to get back up the canal bank to his vehicle. That's when it wrapped around him and eventually bit his hand. Penniston finally was able to get his pistol drawn and ultimately kill the snake.

It was 17 feet, 5 inches long and weighed 120 pounds. That's a Florida record for the serpents and it's the third python that has measured more than 17 feet, according to the District.

District officials say python hunters have killed 1,859 pythons on District lands. Penniston is currently second-place among the hunters with 235 snakes eliminated. Brian Hargrove, a Miami native, has killed the most — 257.

"Just six months after eliminating the first 1,000 pythons from District lands, this program is about to double that total because of a true team effort," said SFWMD scientist Mike Kirkland, project manager for the Python Elimination Program. "With the Governing Board's unwavering support, District staff and a dedicated group of hunters are working to help control this invasive species and protect native wildlife."

How Are Hunters Selected?

According to the District, a team of professional python hunters was selected from more than 1,000 applicants. They were given access to District-owned lands in Miami-Dade County for the pilot phase, and later in Palm Beach, Broward and Collier counties as the program expanded.

These independent contractors are paid $8.25 per hour, up to eight hours daily, to hunt in the Everglades. Depending on the size of the snake presented, hunters can also receive additional payments of $50 for pythons measuring up to 4 feet and an extra $25 for each foot measured above 4 feet. An additional $200 is given for each eliminated python nest with eggs.

The python breeds and multiplies quickly. It has no natural predator in the Everglades ecosystem and has decimated native populations of wildlife.

Featured image: South Florida Water Management District


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