Pythons are consuming alligators and everything else in Florida. Snake hunters stand poised to aid. - NBC news

the first python Siewe nabbed measured greater than 10 feet. "I caught it on my own, donning flip-flops," Siewe talked about, noting she discovered it within the middle of a Florida motorway. 

She disoriented the snake by means of putting a pillowcase over its head, then put the snake within the trunk of her Camry.

The greatest python Siewe has caught become 17 toes, three inches, and weighed a hundred and ten pounds. 

"I jumped on her in a ditch on the side of the street, all 17 feet of her," Siewe mentioned. "She had the largest snake head I had ever seen. That changed into a true combat of energy."

amongst these facing off in opposition t Siewe during this 12 months's Florida Python problem: fellow skilled python hunter, and defending challenge champion, Dusty Crum. A Florida native, Crum, 42, snagged the longest python in the competitors's expert category last year, catching a 16-foot python. In 2016, he changed into a part of a 3-man group that took desirable honors within the challenge, catching 33 pythons.

"a lot of it's good fortune, but it's additionally about being in the appropriate area on the right time," Crum referred to. "It's any one's game." 

Snake hunters use lots of device to get the job performed, ranging from snake hooks to special elevate bags to an array of lights that may spot the reptiles in the dark of nighttime. 

To put together for this yr's challenge, Crum is employing his carefully curated assortment of snake-catching know-how.

"When it comes to the challenge, it's guns blazing," Crum observed. "I'm attempting to make the most of all my gadget: little geo-trackers, four-wheelers. I've acquired swamp buggies, monster vans with huge tires on them. We outfit these with lights on and i'll be able to access locations the standard public can't get to." 

Dusty Crum holds a snake in Florida in 2017. Dusty Crum holds a snake in Florida in 2017.Courtesy Lisette Morales McCabe

Python looking, Crum and Siewe pointed out, isn't for the faint of heart. while pythons aren't venomous, they are potent — and well-known to chew. 

"They've got a whole bunch of tooth, and once they chunk you it's like needle pricks," Crum said. "The worst thing that may ensue is when the tooth breaks off and receives caught in you, and it gets contaminated."

Siewe stated she's been bitten too again and again to count number. "A 14-footer bit me on my hand. I've been bitten on my butt, on my calf. fortunately, I haven't been bitten on my face."

Like Crum, Siewe says she works to repurpose portions of the pythons she catches. "i take advantage of the leather to make Apple watch bands," she said.

Crum and Siewe each say they're "in it to win it" when it comes to this yr's problem. 

Neither plan on getting lots sleep during the competitors, as pythons are nocturnal, meaning the best time for searching is late at evening. 

still, they observed, the precise goal of the problem has less to do with anyone victories they might ranking, and much extra to do with the superior cause each say they're fighting — and hunting — for. 

"This isn't a trophy hunt or a sport hunt," Crum explains. "here is an environmental hunt. It's looking to shop our environment. It's a different feeling when it's man versus beast, fighting for the atmosphere."

No humans within the U.S. had been killed through pythons, but a whole lot of pets have, and wildlife officers be troubled pythons will damage complete populations of Florida native species in the event that they're now not stopped. among the many mammals within the Everglades that pythons are decimating: marsh rabbits, raccoons, foxes, deer and bobcats. 

"The Burmese python is likely one of the largest snakes on the earth, capable of achieving 20 feet long, and since of our local weather the pythons are capable of thrive in Florida with the aid of preying on our wildlife," Kirkland talked about. "In some regions of Florida, up to 95% of fur-bearing animal populations have disappeared."

The pythons are even eating Florida alligators. 

Python incentives and education specialist Robert Edman demonstrates how to catch a python during an event promoting the Florida Python Challenge on Dec. 5, 2019. Python incentives and education professional Robert Edman demonstrates a way to seize a python all the way through an event merchandising the Florida Python challenge on Dec. 5, 2019.Al Diaz / Miami Herald by the use of Getty pictures file

"The pythons are generalists," stated McKayla Spencer, Florida's Interagency python management coordinator. "They'll consume anything."

Pythons made their first appearance within the Everglades within the Seventies, seemingly a result of a pet snake being launched into the wild, but the inhabitants did not explode until the Nineteen Nineties. 

That's when storm Andrew struck Florida, destroying, amongst different things, a couple of python breeding amenities. Kirkland stated there's no definitive proof that the destruction of breeding farms is responsible for the explosion of Florida's python population. "but it surely didn't assist," he stated.

There's no respectable estimate of how many pythons there are in Florida, owing to their stealth nature. 

"they're very tough to find," Spencer stated. "For each one python we locate, there are 99 more available."

more and more, Spencer spoke of, pythons are displaying up in people's yards and boats, as the snakes literally swallow more and more Florida territory.  

That's where human hunters come in.  

"I even have at all times had this obsessive fascination with snakes and reptiles in view that i used to be little and my dad taught me to capture fish," Siewe said. "i believed, 'Why isn't this ardour [for] puppies or kittens or whatever ordinary?' It's not — it's snakes."

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