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Florida says OK to take big game snakes during small game seasons

From the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

-- Florida’s FWC reminds hunters that they may continue to take Burmese pythons and all other reptiles of concern within four South Florida wildlife management areas (WMAs).

An FWC executive order, which went into effect Aug. 29, gives all properly licensed and permitted hunters authority to harvest pythons and other reptiles of concern (Indian python, reticulated python, northern and southern African rock python, amethystine or scrub python, green anaconda and Nile monitor lizard) on Everglades and Francis S. Taylor, Holey Land, Rotenberger and Big Cypress WMAs during specified hunting seasons.

Besides Big Cypress WMA, small-game seasons are going on in the other three management areas, continuing through March 7.  On Big Cypress, general gun season is in, immediately followed by the area's small-game season, which goes through Feb. 1.  In all four WMAs, only a Florida hunting license and management area permit are required to hunt reptiles of concern from now through the end of the small-game seasons.

With the exception of the small-game season in the Deep Lake Unit of Big Cypress (where only bows and muzzleloaders are allowed), hunters may use shotguns, rimfire rifles and handguns to take pythons.  Nets and snares also may be used, but no matter the method of take, all reptiles of concern must be euthanized on site.

Reptiles of concern may not be taken out of the wildlife management areas alive and must be reported to the FWC within 36 hours by calling, toll-free, 866-392-4286, or going to MyFWC.com and selecting "Burmese pythons" in the "Quick Clicks" menu.  However, any reptile of concern taken from Big Cypress must be checked in at one of the area's six check stations.

Hunters may do what they wish with the reptile's skin and meat. However, according to the National Park Service, mercury testing on two dozen captured Burmese pythons in Everglades National Park revealed extraordinarily high levels of mercury in the meat - well above levels considered safe to eat in freshwater fish and alligators.

Officials estimate there are thousands of Burmese pythons in the wild in South Florida.  The FWC goal is to contain the spread of pythons in the wild and prevent establishment of other reptiles of concern.  Data collected by hunters on these state-managed lands assists in preventing northern movement.

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